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 respect the judicial system and remain transparent to the public.
The Council takes complaints very seriously and addresses them as quickly as possible. Of the approximately 300 complaint files received annually, the Council resolves the majority of them within 3 months.
01 - Review of the Complaint
The complaint is first reviewed by the Executive Director. After analysis, he/she has the authority to close the file if the complaint is not the subject of a dispute that can be dealt with by the Committee. If, on the contrary, it is, the Executive Director forwards the file to the Committee.
A member of the Council’s "Judicial Conduct Committee" first reviews the complaint according to certain criteria. Many complaints are dismissed because they do not meet the criteria for review. A few examples of complaints that are inadmissible include: complaints about a judge’s decision in a case, not his or her conduct; others about a provincially appointed judge, rather than a federally appointed judge.
02 - Investigation of the Complaint
When the Council further investigates, a copy of the complaint is sent to the judge in question and the chief justice of that judge’s province, with a request for comments. The complainant may also be asked to provide additional comments and include them with their complaint.
Some complaints contain serious allegations of inappropriate conduct against a judge and must be further investigated by the Council. Such cases may be investigated with the assistance of a lawyer from outside the Council. This person is chosen for their expertise and reputation in the legal community. The lawyer may interview the judge, the complainant, and others who are connected with the situation, and must then prepare a report.
03 – Review Panel
If the complaint is not resolved at this stage, the matter may be handed over to a Review Panel for further study. The Review Panel is composed of up to five members. If the Review Panel concludes that the complaint has merit, but is not serious enough to move to the next stage (formal hearing by the Inquiry Committee), the Review Panel may close the file with an expression of concern, or may recommend counselling for the judge, or other similar remedial actions.
04 – Inquiry Committee
If the complaint might be serious enough to warrant the judge’s removal from office, the Review Panel can decide that an Inquiry Committee should be formed to hear the matter. This Inquiry Committee is composed of Council members and senior lawyers.
If the complaint comes from a provincial Attorney General or the Minister of Justice of Canada, the matter may go directly to an Inquiry Committee.
The Inquiry Committee can conduct its own investigation into the complaint, and hear from the judge, the person who made the complaint, and others. The Inquiry Committee normally holds a public hearing, where the judge can attend and give evidence about the matter that led to the complaint. The Inquiry Committee prepares a report, which goes to the full Canadian Judicial Council for discussion.
05 – Recommendations
After considering the Inquiry Committee’s report, the Council must decide whether the judge’s conduct has rendered the judge “incapacitated or disabled from the due execution of the office of judge.”
The Council may recommend to Parliament (through the Minister of Justice) that the judge be removed from office. Parliament has never had to face such a situation, but sometimes a judge will retire or resign before that step is taken.
06 – Notice of the Decision
When the complaint has been considered and a decision is reached, the Council will advise the person who complained of its decision in writing.