The Role of the Ontario Judicial Council
The Ontario Judicial Council was established by the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, Ch. C.43 to investigate complaints made by the members of the public about conduct of provincially-appointed judges.
In addition, it approves the continuing education plan for provincial judges established by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. The Council has approved criteria for continuation in office and standards of conduct developed by the Chief Justice which are called the Principles of Judicial Office.
In 2005, the Chief Justice, together with the Ontario Conference of Judges, proposed to the Judicial Council that the Canadian Judicial Council’s Ethical Principles for Judges, form part of the ethical standards governing the conduct of judges of the Ontario Court of Justice. The Judicial Council agreed and they also form part of the ethical standards for judges of the Ontario Court of Justice.
In 2023, the Chief Justice proposed to the Ontario Judicial Council that the Canadian Judicial Council’s Ethical Principles for Judges (2021) form part of the ethical standards governing the conduct of judges of the Ontario Court of Justice. The Judicial Council agreed and they also form part of the ethical standards governing the conduct of judges of the Ontario Court of Justice.
The Ethical Principles for Judges are advisory in nature. They are designed and intended to describe the high standard of behaviour that judges strive to maintain, to assist judges with difficult ethical and professional issues that may confront them, and to help members of the public to better understand the judicial role.
Any complaint about the conduct of a federally-appointed judge in Ontario should be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council in Ottawa.
Composition of the Council and Terms of Appointment
The Ontario Judicial Council includes:
- the Chief Justice of Ontario (or designate from the Court of Appeal)
- the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice (or designate from the Ontario Court of Justice)
- the Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice
- a Regional Senior Judge of the Ontario Court of Justice appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Attorney General
- two judges of the Ontario Court of Justice appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice
- the Treasurer of Law Society of Ontario or another bencher of the Law Society who is a lawyer, designated by the Treasurer
- a lawyer who is not a bencher of Law Society of Ontario, appointed by the Law Society
- four persons, neither judges nor lawyers, who are appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Attorney General
The judges appointed by the Chief Justice, the lawyer appointed by Law Society of Ontario, and the community members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor hold office for four year terms and may not be re-appointed. In the appointment of these members to the Council, the importance of reflecting Ontario’s linguistic duality and the diversity of its population and ensuring overall gender balance on the Council is recognized.
Making a Complaint
If you have a complaint about the conduct of a provincially-appointed judge, 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, you will need to provide as much information as you can about what you feel was misconduct on the part of the judge. For more information, see the Council’s brochure, Do you have a complaint?
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.
Written complaints should be mailed or faxed to:
The Ontario Judicial Council
1 Queen Street East, Box 65
How are Complaints Processed?
When the Council receives your letter of complaint, the Council will write to you to let you know your letter has been received.
If your complaint is about judicial conduct, a two-member complaint subcommittee of the Council will review your complaint and gather any information it deems necessary to conduct an investigation (for example, copies of the transcript of a trial). Each complaint subcommittee is made up of a judge and a community member of the Council. Section 51.4(6) of the Act provides that the investigation into a complaint shall be conducted in private. Section 51.4(3) of the Act provides that a subcommittee shall dismiss a complaint without further investigation, if, in the subcommittee’s opinion, it falls outside the Judicial Council’s jurisdiction or is frivolous or an abuse of process.
If the complaint is not dismissed pursuant to s. 51.4(3), the subcommittee will prepare a report on its investigation to a review panel of the Council consisting of four other members: two judges, a lawyer and a community member. Complaints that proceed to the review panel stage are therefore considered by at least six members of the Council, including two community members.
Pursuant to s. 51.4(18) of the Act, the review panel may dismiss the complaint, refer the complaint to the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice to speak to the judge about concerns raised in the complaint, or order a formal, public hearing into the complaint.
If a public hearing is held, and misconduct is found at the end of the hearing, the range of disciplinary measures that can be imposed extends from a warning to the judge about his or her conduct to a recommendation to the Attorney General of Ontario that he or she be removed from office.
Regardless of what decision is made about a complaint, the person who made the complaint will be advised in writing of the decision of the Council.
For further information…
If you need additional information or further assistance, 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.