Judges and magistrates are generally not subject to direct discipline by other persons. This degree of immunity from direct discipline except in extreme cases is necessary to maintain the independence of the judiciary so that they can, and can be seen to, administer justice impartially.
At the same time, judicial officers are made accountable generally through:
- the public nature of their work;
- the requirement that they give adequate reasons for their decisions; and
- the right given to litigants to challenge decisions through the appeal process.
There may be occasions, however, where a person is concerned not with the decision made, but with the conduct of a judge or magistrate.
Judicial Commission of Victoria
From 3 July 2017, complaints about the conduct or capacity of Victorian judicial officers or VCAT members may be made to the Judicial Commission of Victoria. The Commission is an independent organisation established under the Judicial Commission of Victoria Act 2016 to investigate complaints about judicial officers and VCAT members. The Commission provides an accessible and transparent complaint process which aims to ensure public confidence in Victorian courts and the VCAT is maintained.
Who can make a complaint to the Commission?
A member of the public or the legal profession can make a complaint by filling out the online complaint form available from the Commission’s website. The Law Institute of Victoria and Bar Association can also refer complaints on behalf of their members without disclosing the identity of the complainant.
Which judicial officers can I complain about?
The Commission can investigate complaints about the following judicial officers and VCAT members:
- a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria;
- a judge of the County Court of Victoria;
- a magistrate of the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria;
- a magistrate of the Children’s Court of Victoria;
- a coroner of the Coroners Court of Victoria;
- a judicial registrar of the Supreme Court, the County Court, the Magistrates’ Court, the Children’s Court or the Coroners Court; or
- a VCAT member.
What type of complaints can the Commission investigate?
The Commission cannot investigate the correctness of a decision made by a judicial officer or VCAT member - it is not a substitute for the appeals process. The Commission’s role is to investigate complaints about the capacity or conduct of judicial officers or VCAT members. For example, complaints about inappropriate conduct in court or matters which may affect the performance of the officer’s function.
The Commission cannot investigate complaints about federal courts or tribunals, such as the Family Court and AAT, nor can it investigate complaints about court or VCAT staff.
What happens after the Commission receives your complaint?
Once the Commission has received and considered a complaint, it will take one of three actions:
- dismiss the complaint (for example, if it is vexatious, or relates solely to the correctness of a legal decision);
- refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction with recommendations about the future conduct of the officer; or
- if it is a very serious allegation, refer it to an investigating panel appointed by the Commission, which may recommend that the officer or VCAT member be removed from office.
The Commission will advise the outcome of any complaint in writing.
How can I contact the Commission?
Phone: (03) 9605 2420
Fax: (03) 9604 2422
Postal address: Judicial Commission of Victoria
GPO Box 4305
Melbourne VIC 3001
A Guide to Judicial Conduct is published on the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration website (publication no. 82)
Children's Court complaints in relation to the conduct of court staff, services provided, court processes or procedures, or court facilities must be made in writing and forwarded to:
the senior manager at the court location where the complaint has arisen
- Principal Registrar
Children’s Court of Victoria
477 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
- Complaints Officer
Magistrates' Court of Victoria
GPO Box 882G
Melbourne Vic 3001
Tel: (03) 9603 9112
Fax: (03) 9603 9044
More information is available in the Complaints Policy document of the Magistrates' Court of Victoria which also applies to the Children's Court.