This week, a new protocol was agreed for members of the Bar to raise concerns about judicial conduct in the Children’s Court. The Protocol is modelled on that reached with the Supreme Court of Victoria, which was an Australian first in October 2018, and the County Court of Victoria in November 2018. I expect to be able to announce corresponding Protocols with the Federal Court, the Family Court, the Federal Circuit Court and the Magistrates’ Court in coming weeks.
The Protocols provide a mechanism enabling members to raise with the President of the Bar concerns about judicial conduct they have experienced or witnessed, as an alternative to making a formal complaint to the Judicial Commission of Victoria. The Protocols reflect a shared view of the judiciary and the Bar that judicial bullying of members of counsel is unacceptable.
The options available to members of the Bar who have experienced or witnessed inappropriate judicial conduct are outlined in the Bar’s Judicial Conduct Policy. That policy, together with the Court Protocols and the appointment of two Judicial Conduct Advisers are important parts of our response to the findings in last year’s Wellbeing at the Victorian Bar report.
I am grateful to the heads of jurisdiction for their willingness to engage in an open, frank and constructive dialogue with the Bar about these difficult issues.