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Making a complaint about judicial misconduct


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As of 1 October 2013 there is a new formal mechanism for making complaints about judges. The process is set out in the Judicial Conduct (Tribunals) Rules 2013. A colleague alerted me to these rules and a recent comment on the blog persuaded me that it is worth highlighting them here.

Scales of Justice by Donkey Hotey
Scales of Justice by DonkeyHotey

Any formal complaint about a judge should not be lightly made as it is a serious matter. It is hard to see how disagreeing with the outcome of a case could be a legitimate matter of compliant, for example. An appeal would normally be the appropriate way forward. The way that immigration hearings are conducted can be unusually intrusive, though, and it is not unknown for immigration judges to cross the boundary of acceptable conduct. It is also worth bearing in mind that permitting one of the lawyers to cross the boundary of acceptable conduct may itself be a cause for complaint against a judge. One immigration judge was issued with a formal warning by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office in 2013 for allowing “inappropriate questioning during an appeal hearing”.

A guide to good judicial conduct is provided that may be helpful as a standards guide.

In the rules, a complaint is defined as an allegation of misconduct. It must be made in writing in legible form and include the name or identifying information about the tribunal judge concerned, the date or dates on which the misconduct took place and the name and address of the person making the complaint. Complaints cannot be accepted and investigated where the complaint states that the judge concerned should not see the complaint document.

Complaints must be made within three months, although time can be extended in exceptional circumstances.

Rule 34 sets out various circumstances where the complaint will be dismissed, which I’m not going to list here. Rule 41 sets out grounds on which a judge can be summarily removed from judicial office (mainly upon various types of criminal conviction). Rules 51 onwards concern investigations into complaints and the process that will be followed, including appointment of an investigating judge and the setting up of a disciplinary panel.

If the behaviour occurs in the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber the complaint should be directed to Michael Clements, President of the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, Field House, 15 Breams Buildings, London, EC4A 1DZ.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.


3 Responses

  1. Yes, interesting and helpful. Currently have a case where we seriously considered complaining about the judge. The inappropriate behaviour was combined with a flawed decision, against which we now have permission to appeal. Question is should we complain as well.

    Basically the judge concluded our case was hopeless and it was all the fault of the representative (me)- and then proceeded to rebuke me in front of my client. He said he had no choice but to dismiss the case and advised my client to make a fresh application “with a professional and competent representative”.

    In his written decision he included a paragraph where he continues to rebuke me (by name)- saying I appeared “very young, very nervous and very an experience [sic]” and that future decision makers shouldn’t take these proceedings into account against the appellant…because it was all my fault. (I was very nervous, I’ve never been treated that way by a judge before…)

    On the one hand a successful appeal might be considered a sufficient answer to these accusations…but on the other would that necessarily change the judge’s behaviour?

    1. Sounds bloody awful, Philip. Depending on the circumstances I think a complaint might be in order. That sort of bullying will carry on otherwise.