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THE ASSOCIATION OF ONTARIO JUDGES WELCOMES YOU


“A strong and independent judiciary is indispensable to the proper administration of justice in our society.  Judges must be free to perform their judicial duties without fear of reprisal or influence from any person, group, institution or level of government.  In turn, society has a right to expect those appointed as judges to be honourable and worthy of their trust and confidence.”

Preamble, Principles of Judicial Office

The Justices of the Ontario Court of Justice serve the public as independent and impartial officers of the law. They strive to preserve the integrity and independence of their judicial office through “the pursuit of excellence in administering justice.” That is the first principle of the Principles of Judicial Office which all of the Judges of our court are sworn to uphold.

 

Find out more:

  1. A Short History of Ontario’s Judiciary
  2. The Modern Judiciary: Independent and Impartial
  3. Judges of The Ontario Court of Justice:

 

This site is for members of the Association of Ontario Judges.

For information on court policies, practices, court appearances and other matters, please go to the Ontario Court of Justice website. (http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj)

 

Media Information

Guides, contact information and other media resources can be found on the media pages on the Ontario Court of Justice website. (http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/media)

 

Media and Public Inquiries

The Ontario Court of Justice responds to media and public inquiries within 24 hours. Judges are contacted directly for their direction when there is an interview request or other information is sought from a judge.

 


 

1.       A Short History of Ontario’s Judiciary

Ontario’s modern Judiciary has its roots in 17th century England and Wales.

The first judges [in England and Wales] were drawn from a comparatively small group of royal clerks, and they were often headed by a justiciar who combined civil, judicial, and military duties … It was the tumultuous events of the seventeenth century that were to lay the foundations of the modern judiciary.  In 1601 judges held office at the good pleasure of the Crown and it was the good pleasure of the Stuart Kings to sack their judges if they disapproved of their judgments. In 1701, the Act of Settlement gave judges tenure for life. The history of the century identified clearly the need to make a distinct separation between the executive, lawmaking and judicial powers.[1]

 

For a more detailed history, please visit the Ontario Court of Justice website.


 

2.       The Modern Judiciary:  Independent and Impartial

The Justices of the Ontario Court of Justice serve the public as independent and impartial officers of the law.  They strive to preserve the integrity and independence of their judicial office through “the pursuit of excellence in administering justice.”  That is the first principle of the Principles of Judicial Office which all of the Judges of our court are sworn to uphold.  The preamble to those principles states the following:

“A strong and independent judiciary is indispensable to the proper administration of justice in our society.  Judges must be free to perform their judicial duties without fear of reprisal or influence from any person, group, institution or level of government.  In turn, society has a right to expect those appointed as judges to be honourable and worthy of the trust and confidence.”

 

Our system of government is divided into three branches: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. Each has separate and independent areas of power and responsibility. In its simplest form, the legislative branch creates the law, the executive branch enforces the law, and the judicial branch interprets and applies the law in individual cases. Through a long history, a balance has been struck among these three branches of government, keeping each branch from gaining too much power or having too much influence over the others.[2]

 

The Rule of Law Requires an Independent Judiciary

Every resident of Canada remains subject to the application of the law. Neither person nor government is beyond its reach. This principle is often called the “rule of law” and is important in a democratic system of government.

 

A former Secretary General of the United Nations has defined the rule of law as follows:

It refers to a principle of governance in which all persons, institutions and entities, public and private, including the State itself, are accountable to laws that are publicly promulgated, equally enforced and independently adjudicated, and which are consistent with international human rights norms and standards.

This principle has a long history, but the independence of the judges, who are tasked with interpreting and applying the law in individual cases, is an important part.[3]

 

Liberty can have nothing to fear from the Judiciary alone but would have everything to fear from its union with either of the other two departments [the legislative and executive branches].[4]

 

What is Judicial Independence and why is it important?

The term “judicial independence” is often used when discussing the justice system, but is not always well understood … A famous English judge said that “Justice must be rooted in confidence.” He was referring to the confidence litigants and the public must have that judicial decision-makers are impartial. Those who come before the courts must be certain that decisions made by those courts are not subject to outside influence. Judicial independence means that judges are not subject to pressure and influence, and are free to make impartial decisions based solely on fact and law. Judicial independence is often misunderstood as something that is for the benefit of the judge. It is not. It is the public’s guarantee that a judge will be impartial. The principle has been expressed this way:

In the final analysis we value and stress judicial independence for what it assures to the public, not for what it grants to judges themselves. Ultimately, the sole purpose of the concept is to ensure that every citizen who comes before the court will have [their] case heard by a judge who is free of governmental or private pressures that may impinge upon the ability of that judge to render a fair and unbiased decision in accordance with the law.

It has been suggested that judges may use independence as a “shield” against scrutiny. This is a mistaken view. Judges have a responsibility to protect their independence and impartiality. They do so not out of self-interest, but as an obligation they owe to the public who have entrusted them with decision-making power, and to whom they are ultimately accountable to maintain the public’s confidence.[5]

The independence of the judges is requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals.[6] An independent judiciary is indispensable to impartial justice under the law.  Judges should, therefore, uphold and exemplify judicial independence in its individual and institutional aspects.[7]


 

3.       Judges of The Ontario Court of Justice

 

Transparency

Every day in more than 200 court locations in Ontario, the Judges of the Ontario Court of Justice carry out their duties in the most transparent and accountable workplace imaginable.

 

More than 480,000 criminal cases and 20,000 family law matters are heard in courts. All court proceedings are recorded on a permanent public record. Transcripts of court proceedings can be ordered, and DRD recordings are available in accordance with the Court’s DRD access policy.

 

Daily court lists of all matters being heard are available to the public online (http://www.ontariocourtdates.ca) (subject to certain restrictions such as youth criminal and child welfare cases).  Information including court statistics is also available to the public online at the Ontario Court of Justice website. (www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj)

 

Selection

All Judges of The Ontario Court of Justice are selected through the most independent and comprehensive selection process of any court in the world. Applicants with at least 10 years membership in the Bar may apply to the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC), which is made up of seven lay members and six members of the legal community and Judges. JAAC conducts confidential inquiries and interviews with judicial candidates and sends a ranked list of its recommendations to the Attorney General.  While a sound knowledge of the law is essential, suitable candidates are expected to have a broad range of experience in their community and an appreciation for social issues and cultural diversity.

 

Professional Development

Once appointed, all Ontario Court Judges are expected to take part in programs designed jointly by the Association of Ontario Judges and the court to promote and maintain their professional competence.  The planning and presentation of continuing education programs is coordinated by a court committee known as the Education Secretariat. This committee has developed one of the most comprehensive and wide-ranging core programs of education available to Judges in any court in Canada.  Newly appointed Judges participate in specially designed orientation and judicial skills programs. All Judges are also encouraged to take part in external education programs presented by the National Judicial Institute, the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges and the Canadian Bar Association, among others.

 

Oversight

 

The Judges of the Ontario Court of Justice are subject to a significant level of legal and professional oversight. Their decisions are subject to appeal to the Court of Appeal or to the Superior Court of Justice on the basis of appropriate grounds, which might argue that errors in law or fact were made.

 

Under the Courts of Justice Act (link to http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90c43#BK6) the Chief Justice of Ontario has general supervision and direction over the sittings of the Court of Appeal and the assignment of the judicial duties of the court. If the Chief Justice of Ontario is absent from Ontario, or is for any reason unable to act, his or her powers and duties shall be exercised and performed by the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario.

 

While appeal courts are available to sit in review of legal decisions, the Ontario Judicial Council (OJC) can also review and investigate written complaints by litigants or members of the public about the conduct of Judges. The Ontario Judicial Council has the power to conduct hearings and, in appropriate cases, recommend sanctions concerning the conduct of Judges.

 

In relation to the nearly 480,000 criminal charges and 20,000 family matters heard in our Court every year, the number of public complaints to the Council is very small. In 2012-2013, the Ontario Judicial Council reported that it received a total of 22 new complaints. The OJC report to the Attorney General for that year reveals that 17 of 24 dispositions in that year were dismissed as either unfounded or not within their jurisdiction in relation to judicial conduct.

 



[1]Judicial Independence – Its History in England and Wales, Lord Justice Brooke, 2000

[2]Judicial Independence (And What Everyone Should Know About It), Chief Justices of British Columbia, 2012

[3]Judicial Independence (And What Everyone Should Know About It), Chief Justices of British Columbia, 2012

[4]The Federalist Paper # 78, Alexander Hamilton

[5]Judicial Independence (And What Everyone Should Know About It), Chief Justices of British Columbia, 2012

[6] The Federalist Paper # 78, Alexander Hamilton

 

 

 

Association of Ontario Judges 2016

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