Filing a complaint
If you have had any concerns about the conduct of a federally-appointed judge or you feel that you have been unfairly treated, you can file a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council.
The complaint must be submitted in writing to the Council by letter or e-mail. The Council will not discuss your matter over the phone. You can also fill out the form below. Make sure you read about what Council can and cannot do before you submit.
What types of complaints are eligible?
- Complaints concerning the conduct of judges
- Complaints regarding the manner in which judicial services were provided by judges
- Complaints regarding federally appointed judges
What types of complaints are eligible?
- Deal with a complaint regarding judges appointed by the provincial government (Masters, JP’s).
- Receive complaints regarding retired or deceased judges.
- Change a judge's decision. You must then refer the matter to the Court of Appeal.
- Deal with general complaints about the judicial system.
- Examine complaints about court staff, lawyers or other legal professionals, including members of administrative tribunals who are not judges.
What happens after a complaint is made?
The Council will study and review complaints about judicial conduct in a manner that is fair to both the judge concerned and the complainant. The process must also be efficient, respect the judicial system and remain transparent to the public.
01 - Screening of the Complaint
The complaint is first reviewed by a screening officer designated by the Council.
After analysis, the screening officer may dismiss the complaint, in accordance with section 90 of the Judges Act, if it is frivolous, vexatious or made for an improper purpose or is an abuse of process, is not made for a reason referred to in paragraphs 80(a) to (d), or does not meet the other screening criteria specified by the Council.
Complaints may be dismissed because they are about a judge’s decision in a case, and not about their conduct, or about a provincial court judge, rather than a federally appointed judge.
If, the screening officer does not dismiss the complaint, they refer it to a reviewing member.
02 - Complaint examined by a Reviewing Member
A member of the Council’s Judicial Conduct Committee reviews a complaint referred by a screening officer.
A copy of the complaint is sent to the judge who is the subject of the complaint and to the chief justice of that judge’s court, with a request for comments. The complainant may also be asked to provide additional comments and include them with their complaint.
Some complaints may warrant further investigation through the assistance of an outside lawyer. The lawyer may then interview the judge, the complainant, and others connected to the complaint, and then prepare a report.
The reviewing member may dismiss the complaint if it is without merit, or refer it to a review panel.
03 – Review Panel
The review panel is composed of three members: one member of the Council, another judge, and a member of the public.
The review panel refers the matter to a full hearing panel if it determines that the judge’s removal could possibly be justified following a full hearing of the matter.
Otherwise, the review panel may dismiss the complaint or take other remedial measures such as: issue an expression of concern, warning, or reprimand; order an apology; or recommend counselling or education for the judge.
04 – Hearing Panels
If the review panel imposed remedial measures, the judge who is the subject of the complaint can request that the matter be reviewed by a reduced hearing panel. The reduced hearing panel is composed of three members: a member of the Council, another judge and a senior lawyer.
A complaint referred by a review panel to a full hearing panel will be heard by five members: two Council members, another judge, a senior lawyer and a member of the public.
A complaint made by a provincial Attorney General or the Minister of Justice of Canada will be directly referred to a full hearing panel.
A full hearing panel normally holds a public hearing and hears arguments and evidence, from the judge and others, that led to the complaint.
The full hearing panel may decide that the judge’s removal from office is justified, or it may dismiss the complaint. It may also take other remedial measures such as: issue an expression of concern, warning, or reprimand; order an apology; or recommend counselling or education for the judge.
05 – Appeal Panel
After a full hearing panel’s decision, the judge who is the subject of the complaint or the presenting counsel designated by the Council may respectively, appeal the matter to an appeal panel.
An appeal panel is composed of three members of the Council and two other judges.
06 – Supreme Court of Canada
The judge who is the subject of the complaint or the presenting counsel may respectively, seek from the Supreme Court of Canada leave to appeal the appeal panel’s decision.
07 – Report to the Minister
The full hearing panel must write a report to the Minister once the appeal mechanisms have exhausted or expired. The report must set out the full hearing panel’s decision, and include any decision of an appeal panel and the Supreme Court of Canada. The Minister must respond publicly to the report.