This section provides useful information on the various steps in the complaints process before the Conseil de la magistrature du Québec.
The complaint must indicate the name and mailing address of the complainant, the name of the judge and the words or actions that led to the complaint.
When it receives a complaint, the Conseil sends an acknowledgement of receipt to the complainant and a copy of the complaint to the judge.
At each step of the process, the complainant is informed in writing of any decisions made concerning the complaint.
The Conseil only deals with certain kinds of complaints. At this stage, using the information received from the complainant, the Conseil decides whether it will investigate the complaint further.
If the complaint does not merit further investigation, the Conseil rejects it and informs the complainant and the judge of its decision. If the Conseil decides to investigate the complaint further, it moves on to the next stage, examination.
At this stage, the Conseil collects more information about the events that led to the complaint.
The members of the Conseil designate one member to collect information to complete the complaint file. For example, if the complainant claims a judge was impolite during a hearing, this member will obtain and listen to a copy of the audio recording of the hearing. After reviewing all the available information, the member reports back to the Conseil. At this point, there are two options:
SET UP AN INQUIRY COMMITTEE
If the Conseil decides to set up an inquiry committee, it notifies the complainant, the judge and the Minister of Justice in writing of this decision.
REJECT THE COMPLAINT BECAUSE:
- it is not valid
- the actions or words complained of do not warrant an inquiry
If the Conseil rejects a complaint, it informs the complainant and the judge in writing of this decision and the reasons for this decision.
The role of the inquiry committee is a bit like that of an investigator asked to investigate a case. The committee is made up of five members of the Conseil. In some cases, the committee also includes a former member of the Conseil.
The members of the inquiry committee have all the powers they need to discover the truth. They can obtain any relevant documents and order anyone to appear before the committee to answer questions.
If the circumstances warrant, the judge can be suspended while the inquiry takes place. The Minister of Justice is notified whenever an inquiry committee is established since a representative of the Minister is allowed to intervene in the inquiry.
The committee examines the evidence and hears the judge's and complainant's version of events. It may decide to hear from witnesses, if there are any. The committee can appoint a lawyer to assist it. It is not necessary for the complainant to be represented by a lawyer: the Conseil's lawyer is responsible for presenting the complainant's version of events and any evidence in support of that version. The judge is allowed to be represented by a lawyer.
After the inquiry is completed, the inquiry committee notifies the Conseil of its decision.
If the inquiry committee decides the complaint is not valid, the Conseil informs the complainant, the judge and the Minister of Justice of its decision and reasons for its decision.
If the inquiry committee decides the complaint is valid, the Conseil can impose one of two sanctions on the judge: a reprimand or recommendation that the judge be removed.
Imposing a sanction does not change any of the judge's judgments. The complainant and any other people involved must respect the judgment, unless there are grounds to appeal.
A reprimand is the most common type of sanction. As for removal, the Conseil itself cannot remove a judge. It can only recommend that the Minister of Justice request the Court of Appeal to investigate the matter. At this point, the judge is suspended. After investigating the matter, the Court of Appeal reports back to the government. Only the government has the power to remove a judge. "Removal" means the judges loses the right to be a judge.