The Justices of the Peace Act establishes a process for complaints about the conduct of justices of the peace that is generally private and confidential unless a complaints committee of the Justices of the Peace Review Council decides that the appropriate course of action is to hold a public hearing.
The confidential and private nature of the complaints procedure is mandated by statute and intended to achieve a balance between accountability on the part of the justices of the peace for their conduct and constitutionally protected judicial independence.
A committee of the Council, known as the complaints committee, examines each new complaint and conducts an investigation. The Act requires the investigation to be private.
The complaints committee may: dismiss the complaint; provide advice in person and/or in writing; refer the complaint to the Chief Justice; or order a formal hearing.
The name of the justice of the peace who was the subject of the complaint is confidential by law unless there is a public hearing.
The hearing process, by contrast, is public unless there are exceptional circumstances that require some or all of the hearing be held in private. The criteria for exceptional circumstances are contained in the Council’s Procedures.
When a hearing is ordered, the public receives information about the hearing through the Council’s website and a notice published by the Council in the newspaper.
Order by the Council:
The Council operates under an Order that upholds the confidentiality framework intended by the statute that established the complaints process. The Order is reflected in the Council’s Procedures, which are on the website, in the paragraph set out below:
Pursuant to section 8(18) of the Justices of the Peace Act, the Review Council has ordered that, subject to an order made by a complaints committee or a hearing panel, any information or documents relating to a meeting, investigation or hearing that was not held in public are confidential and shall not be disclosed or made public.
The Order of confidentiality of information and documents applies whether the information or documents are in the possession of the Council, a complaints committee, a hearing panel, the Attorney General or any other person. Materials that are filed as public exhibits in hearings are not confidential, subject to orders of the presiding hearing panel.
The letter sent to the complainant at the end of the process to inform the complainant of the outcome, is subject to the Order above, and is confidential.
The Review Council provides an Annual Report, in English and in French, to the Attorney General at the end of each year of its operation. A year for the purposes of reporting follows the standard calendar year, beginning on January 1st and ending on December 31st.
The Act requires that the Annual Report include a report on all complaints received or dealt with during the year, a summary of the complaint, the findings and a statement of the disposition. The Act prohibits the Report from including information that might identify any justice of the peace, any complainant or any witness unless the complaint matter was the subject of a public hearing.
The Attorney General must submit the report to the Lieutenant Governor in Council. It is tabled in the Legislative Assembly after which time it can be released to the public.