Case study 1
The officer made pre-emptive statements and used an overbearing tone
The complaint related to a plea hearing. The accused had recently been subjected to family violence and the complainant alleged the judicial officer’s conduct was belittling and overbearing when evidence about family violence was raised in mitigation.
The Commission determined the complaint should be referred to the Head of Jurisdiction because the conduct of the judicial officer during the plea hearing infringed the standards of conduct generally expected of judicial officers. Specifically, the Commission considered that the judicial officer:
- made strongly expressed pre-emptive statements about the evidence of the accused and the outcome of the hearing, and in so doing, failed to demonstrate appropriate impartiality;
- used an overbearing and aggressive tone when speaking to the accused and their lawyer and failed to maintain an appropriately neutral tone;
- interrupted the submissions of the accused's legal representative to an extent that could be regarded as denying the legal representative an appropriate opportunity to present their case;
- failed to give reasons for the decision reached or express conclusions about the evidence of the accused; and
- failed to meet community expectations in relation to the treatment of people who are subjected to family violence.
The judicial officer was counselled by the Head of Jurisdiction and expressed regret for his behaviour. The officer has also undertaken training about family violence.
Case study 2
The complainant alleged the judicial officer unfairly and incorrectly struck out their application for an intervention order because the complainant did not appear.
The Commission dismissed the complaint as it related solely to the merits or lawfulness of the decision made by the judicial officer. The Commission does not have jurisdiction to investigate complaints which relate solely to the merits or lawfulness of a decision or procedural ruling made by the judicial officer concerned.
Case study 3
Failure to give a fair hearing
The complainant alleged that the judicial officer would not hear evidence to prove or disprove what the complainant said. Further, the complainant alleged that certain points in documents they provided were not looked at or glossed over by the judicial officer.
The Commission listened to a recording of the proceeding and found that the complainant was given the opportunity to present any evidence they wished to. Further, the complainant discussed each matter they raised in detail. There was no evidence that the officer failed to consider or glossed over points in documents provided by the complainant. The complaint was dismissed on the ground that the allegations made in the complaint were not substantiated.
Case study 4
Bias against self-represented litigants
The complainant alleged the judicial officer was biased against them because they were self-represented and the other party was represented by a solicitor. Specifically, all the orders made by the judicial officer favoured the other party. For example, when the complainant sought an order for an adjournment it was refused, whereas when the other party sought an order for an adjournment the order was granted.
The Commission investigated the allegations and found no evidence that the judicial officer was biased. The complaint was dismissed on the ground that the allegations in the complaint were not substantiated.
Case study 5
The complainant alleged the judicial officer made inappropriate comments during the hearing and was biased against them. Specifically, the complainant alleged the officer said ‘impossible’ a few times during the hearing in response to evidence they gave.
The Commission investigated the allegations including listening to a recording of the proceeding and found that the judicial officer did not make the comments alleged or any inappropriate comments during the hearing. Nor did the Commission find anything to suggest the judicial officer was biased. The complaint was dismissed on the ground that the allegations in the complaint were not substantiated.