COVID-19: Notice to the Public and the Judiciary
Due to COVID-19, responses to new complaints and questions will take longer than usual. Council staff are working off-site, mindful of the advice of medical experts of the importance of social distancing to slow down the rate of infection.
The information in this brochure deals with complaints of misconduct against a Provincial Judge or a Justice of the Peace.
- Making a Complaint
- Just a reminder
- Provincial Judges in Ontario – Who are they?
- Justices of the Peace in Ontario – Who are they?
- What does the colour of the sash indicate?
- Ontario’s Justice System
- What if You Disagree with the Decision Reached in Court?
- Professional Conduct of Judges and Justices of the Peace
- Who Can You Contact if You Have a Complaint?
- Complaint about a Provincial Judge: The Role of the Judicial Council
- Complaint about a Justice of the Peace: The Role of the Justices of the Peace Review Council
- Decisions of the Councils
- For Further Information
- Written complaints
If you have a complaint of misconduct about a provincial judge or a justice of the peace, you must state your complaint in a signed letter. The letter of complaint should include the date, time and place of the court hearing and as much detail as possible about why you feel there was misconduct. If your complaint involves an incident outside the courtroom, please provide as much information as you can, in writing, about what you feel was misconduct on the part of the judge or justice of the peace.
You do not need a lawyer to make a complaint and there is no fee. Please indicate in your letter if there is a specific title, pronoun or form of address you would like Council staff to use when communicating with you.
Anonymous complaints, complaints without a return address, complaints that contain rude, abusive or threatening language, and complaints that appear to be merely academic or mischievous inquiries will not be examined.
The Ontario Judicial Council may only investigate complaints about the conduct of provincially appointed judges. The Justices of the Peace Review Council may only investigate complaints about the conduct of justices of the peace. If you are unhappy with a decision of a judge or a justice of the peace in court, you can pursue an appeal on your own or by consulting with a lawyer or paralegal.
Any complaint about the conduct of a federally appointed judge (e.g. Superior Court of Justice or Court of Appeal for Ontario) should be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council in Ottawa.
In Ontario, most criminal and family law cases are heard in the Ontario Court of Justice by one of the many judges appointed by the province to ensure that justice is done. Provincial judges are lawyers who have practised law for a minimum of 10 years before their appointments to the bench.
Justices of the peace are also appointed by the province. Their assignments include conducting trials under the Provincial Offences Act or municipal by-laws, presiding at bail hearings, and conducting most criminal remand courts. When not in court, they perform a number of functions, including issuing search warrants. Most justices of the peace are not lawyers but must meet the qualifications set out in the Justices of the Peace Act.
- Judges wear red sashes
- Justices of the peace wear green
In their roles, our provincial judges and justices of the peace have the difficult but vital job of deciding the outcome of a case based on the evidence they hear in court and their knowledge of the law. One party will almost always be seen as the winner or the loser. For this type of justice system to work, judges and justices of the peace must be free to make their decisions courageously, independently, and justly even if one of the parties will be unhappy with the outcome.
A judge’s decision can result in many serious consequences. These can range from a fine, probation, a jail term or, in family matters, orders directing custody, access and support of children.
A justice of the peace’s decision can also be serious. For example, in provincial offences court, it may result in a fine, probation, a jail sentence, or a suspension of a driver’s licence. In bail court, denial of bail could result in imprisonment until the conclusion of a criminal trial.
Often, the decision leaves one party disappointed. If one of the parties involved in a court case thinks that a judge or justice of the peace has reached the wrong decision or conclusion, he or she may request a review or appeal of the decision in higher court. This higher court is more commonly known as an appeal court. If the appeal court agrees that a mistake was made, the original decision can be changed, or a new hearing can be ordered.
In Ontario, we expect high standards both in the delivery of justice and in the conduct of the provincial judges and justices of the peace who have the responsibility to make decisions. If you have a complaint about the conduct of provincial judges or justices of the peace, as opposed to the outcome of a trial, you may make a formal complaint.
Examples of misconduct could include: gender or racial bias, having a conflict of interest with one of the parties or unprofessional conduct.
In Ontario, there are two Councils that have the authority to investigate complaints arising from conduct of provincial judicial officers. The Council that you would contact depends upon whether your concern is about the conduct of a provincial judge or a justice of the peace.
If the court case was a criminal or family matter in the Ontario Court of Justice, the judicial officer was likely wearing a red sash and was a provincial judge. For a bail hearing, or a provincial offence (e.g. traffic violation) or municipal offence (e.g. parking or noise violation) case, the judicial officer was likely wearing a green sash and was a justice of the peace.
The Ontario Judicial Council is an agency which was established by the Province of Ontario under the Courts of Justice Act. The Judicial Council serves many functions, but its main role is to investigate complaints of misconduct made about provincially appointed judges. The Council is made up of judges, lawyers and community members. The Council does not have the power to interfere with or change a judge’s decision on a case. Only an appeal court can change a judge’s decision.
The Justices of the Peace Review Council is an agency which was established by the Province of Ontario under the Justices of the Peace Act. The Review Council serves many functions, but its main role is to investigate complaints of misconduct made about justices of the peace. The Council is made up of judges, justices of the peace, a lawyer and community members. The Council does not have the power to interfere with or change a justice of the peace’s decision on a case. Only an appeal court can change a justice of the peace’s decision.
Whether your complaint is about a judge or a justice of the peace, misconduct is taken seriously by the Council responsible for considering the particular complaint.
If the members of a Council considering a complaint believe that an allegation of misconduct has a basis in fact and may result in a finding of judicial misconduct, a public hearing may be held and appropriate disciplinary measures will be determined.
It may result in penalties ranging from issuing a warning to the judge or justice of the peace, to recommending that a judge or justice of the peace be removed from office.
If after careful consideration of a complaint, members of a Council decide there has been no judicial misconduct, your complaint will be dismissed and you will receive a letter outlining the reasons for the dismissal.
In all cases, you will be advised of any decision made by the Council.
If you need any additional information or further assistance regarding a complaint about judicial misconduct, in the greater Toronto area, please call (416)-327-5672. If you are calling long distance, please dial the toll-free number: 1-800-806-5186. TTY (teletypewriter) – Use Bell’s Relay Service: 1-800-855-0511.
For further information on the Ontario Judicial Council, please see their website.
For further information on the Justices of the Peace Review Council, please see their website.
For a complaint about a provincial judge:
The Ontario Judicial Council
1 Queen Street East, Box 65
For a complaint about a justice of the peace:
The Justices of the Peace Review Council
1 Queen Street East, Box 65