Thank you, honourable Chair.
Good morning, honourable members.
Thank you for the invitation to have a representative of the Justices of the Peace Review Council attend before the committee.
As the chair indicated, my name is Marilyn King. I am the Registrar of the Review Council. I am a lawyer, and I have a history of public service that has included positions such as a crown attorney, executive director of a community legal clinic providing services to low-income clients, and various financial, policy, and operational roles in the justice sector. I have been the registrar of the review council since January of 2008.
I will give you a brief overview of the review council and its role. I believe you've all been provided with the annual report and also with the brochure that's provided to members of the public through various places. There's more detail in there, but briefly, given the role of justices of the peace in the administration of justice, they are expected to be sensitive to the high expectations of the public that judicial officers will remain worthy of trust, confidence, and respect.
In that context, the review council was established by the Justices of the Peace Act as an independent body to receive and investigate complaints about the conduct of justices of the peace. The current composition of the review council and its legislated responsibilities were established in 2007.
The objective of the review council, like other judicial discipline bodies, is to preserve or, if necessary, restore public confidence in the judiciary in general. Case law in the courts recognizes that judicial discipline bodies must determine the appropriate disposition that preserves or restores the integrity not just of the individual justice of the peace, but also of the whole of the judiciary
In terms of membership, to carry out its role, the review council must respect judicial independence in judicial decision-making, while providing a means of accountability for judicial conduct. The review council has members with knowledge of judicial decision-making, the nature of judicial independence, and the work being carried out by justices of the peace, as well as members who can provide input from the perspective of the public.
The members who review and investigate complaints and determine the appropriate disposition are three judges of the Ontario Court of Justice who are appointed by the chief justice, one regional senior justice of the peace appointed by the chief justice, three justices of the peace appointed by the chief justice, and four community members appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on the recommendation of the attorney general. There is also one lawyer appointed by the attorney general from a list of three names received from the Law Society of Ontario.
The act also states that in the appointment of members there is an importance in reflecting Ontario's linguistic duality and the diversity of the population, as well as ensuring overall gender balance.
In investigating, any person can make a complaint to the review council about the conduct of a justice of the peace. Complaints must be made in writing, and there is no mandatory form used. Any letter can be written. The legislation requires that the investigation be conducted in private, and that is unlike the stage of a hearing, if one is ordered, which is generally public.
Each complaint is assigned to a three-person complaints committee that includes a judge, a justice of the peace, and either a community member or the lawyer member, for investigation. If the complaint arises from a court proceeding, court transcripts and audio recordings of the proceedings are ordered and reviewed by all members of the committee. If the allegations relate to conduct outside of the courtroom, an independent lawyer may be retained to interview witnesses and provide the copy with a certified transcript of any interviews.
A written response may be invited from the justice of the peace. If so, he or she is provided with full disclosure about the complaint and the information under consideration by the committee.
A justice of the peace can retain a lawyer to assist in responding, and at the end of the process can request compensation for their legal costs. The committee makes a recommendation to the attorney general, and it's within the discretion of the attorney general as to whether or not to pay the amount recommended.
When a complaints committee's investigation is complete, it has a range of dispositions available to it. They can dismiss the complaint. They can provide advice to the subject of the complaint, either in person or in writing. They can order a public hearing, or they can refer the complaint to the Chief Justice with conditions, such as education or treatment.
The act provides that the review council can establish rules of procedure to guide its complaints committees and its hearing panels. It has, in fact, developed those procedures, and they're available to the public on the review council's website. The review council uses those criteria in the procedures to guide the committee on whether a hearing should be ordered and what the appropriate disposition is. A hearing will be ordered if the complaints committee believes that a finder of fact could find that the justice of the peace engaged in judicial misconduct. The act does not define judicial misconduct, but cases have held that the test for judicial misconduct is the following:
whether the impugned conduct is so seriously contrary to the impartiality, integrity, and independence of the judiciary that it has undermined the public’s confidence in the ability of the judge to perform the duties of office or in the administration of justice generally and that it is necessary for the Judicial Council to make one of the dispositions referred to in the section in order to restore that confidence.
If a hearing is ordered, it is heard by a hearing panel of three different members—again, a judge, a justice of the peace, and either a community member or a lawyer, and those members cannot have been the members who were involved in the investigation of a complaint. Notice of the hearing is posted on the website, and it's put in a newspaper where the complaint arose.
An independent lawyer, called “presenting counsel”, is retained to present the evidence to support the allegations that are set out in the complaint that goes in the notice of hearing, and the the justice of the peace, or his or her lawyer, may also present evidence.
After a hearing, if there is a finding of judicial misconduct, the possible dispositions include a warning; a reprimand; an order of an apology; an order of specified measures, such as further education or treatment as a condition of continuing to sit as a justice of the peace; a suspension without pay for up to 30 days; a suspension with pay; or if not any of those, a recommendation to the attorney general for removal from office.
To recommend removal from office, the hearing panel must determine that the conduct of the justice of the peace is so manifestly contrary to the independence, impartiality, and integrity of the judiciary that the confidence in the justice system of individuals appearing before that justice of the peace or of the public would be undermined, rendering the justice of the peace incapable of performing the duties of his or her office.
In summary, public confidence in the administration of justice is viewed to be of paramount importance. Justices of the peace are, for many members of the public, their first and often only experience in the justice system, and they are the face of justice. The complaints process carried out by the review council therefore has a role in maintaining and restoring public confidence in the judiciary and in the administration of justice.
Thank you. I tried to keep that to seven minutes.