Starting today, members of the public may make complaints about misconduct by judges to the newly formed Judicial Conduct Committee.
Under the new rules, judges found to have acted improperly may face a range of sanctions including “advice” and recommendations they undergo training.
Serious misconduct may see a judge receiving an “admonishment” from the conduct committee and judges may be required to report back on actions they have taken to remedy their misconduct.
However, the committee will not be able to fine judges or dismiss them. Under the Constitution, judges can only be removed by the Oireachtas following impeachment.
The Judicial Conduct Committee has been established under the Judicial Council Act 2019
‘Competence and diligence’
“From today, Monday, October 3rd, and for the first time in the history of the State, procedures will be put in place to facilitate complaints about alleged judicial misconduct,” the Department of Justice said.
Under the law, judicial misconduct may constitute breaches of “judicial independence, impartiality, integrity, propriety (including the appearance of propriety), competence and diligence”.
Any judge who “brings the administration of justice into disrepute” may also be guilty of misconduct.
Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said maintaining public confidence in the judiciary was crucial. “I would like to thank the members of the judiciary for their support for this important legislation and to acknowledge the importance of their continued constitutional independence.”
A member of the public can make a complaint to the registrar of the Judicial Council. The complaint must be made within three months of the offence and come from someone who was directly impacted or who witnessed the misconduct. The complaint must not be “frivolous or vexatious”.
The Judicial Conduct Committee may also launch an investigation into a matter even if no complaint is received and may establish a panel of inquiry to deal with a specific matter.