Enhancing public confidence in the State’s judicial officers

Judicial Commission of NSW

Law Courts
Principal functions

The Judicial Commission’s principal functions are to

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Assist the courts to achieve consistency in sentencing

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Organise and supervise an appropriate scheme of continuing education and training of judicial officers

Examine complaints against judicial officers

Examine complaints against judicial officers

About us

Judicial Commission of NSW: Enhancing public confidence in the State’s judicial officers

Who we serve

We serve our diverse community including

  • Public
  • Judicial officers
  • Legal professionals
  • Government
  • Community organisations
  • Students
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How we serve the public

We provide the general public with information and resources about the justice system and judicial process, including guidance on lodging complaints.


We aim to inform people and our work is designed to enhance public confidence in the judiciary by promoting the highest standards of judicial behaviour and decision-making.

Can the Judicial Commission deal with my complaint?

Learn about the type of complaints the Commission can deal with and the process for lodging a complaint against a judicial officer, such as a judge or magistrate.

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How we serve judicial officers

We provide legal information and resources to assist the courts to achieve consistency in imposing sentences and more generally conduct criminal and civil proceedings. Judicial officers have access to the Judicial Information Research System (JIRS), Lawcodes, bench books and other publications as well as a continuing judicial education program.

Programs for judicial officers

The Commission promotes high standards of judicial performance and assists in the development of appropriate judicial skills and practice.

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How we serve the legal profession

We provide the legal profession with information and resources including our Judicial Information Research System (JIRS) (on a paid subscription basis), Lawcodes and bench books.

Subscribe to JIRS

JIRS is available to the broader legal profession, libraries and educational institutions on a paid subscription basis.

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How we serve the government

We provide government agencies with access to our resources including the Judicial Information Research System (JIRS), Lawcodes and bench books.

Access the Lawcodes database

Find associated text of legislation, a short and long description, penalties and more.

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How we serve our community

We present and share information to inform community groups about our role in the justice system and engage with the community through collaborations with other organisations.

Programs for communities

The Commission presents and shares information to inform the public and community groups about our role in the justice system and engages with our community engagement role through collaborations with other organisations.

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How we serve students

We provide students with legal information and resources, including bench books, about all aspects of the judicial and court processes.

Access to bench books and handbooks

Most of our publications can be downloaded free from our website.

Our values

Empowered by 4 core values

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Connecting

We value our partners and work cooperatively with them.

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Enhancement

We continually improve the way we do business.

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Professionalism

We are recognised for our integrity, our independence, and the high quality services we deliver.

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Sustainability

We consider the way our operations, products and services impact on people, the environment and the economy.

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Stay up-to-date with the latest in jurisprudence and get knowledge at your fingertips for all areas of law.

Latest news and updates

Civil Trials Bench Book Update 56 published

14 June 2024
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Children’s Court of NSW Resource Handbook Update 19 published

5 June 2024
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Sentencing Bench Book Update 58 published

29 May 2024
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Our partners

Australasian Institute of Judicial AdministrationJudicial College of VictoriaAustralian Judicial Officers AssociationNational Judicial College of AustraliaJudicial Council on Diversity and InclusionTe Kura KaiwhakawaNSW Bar AssociationThe Law Society of NSW
Browse to find answers to common enquiries

Frequently asked questions

Public

1How can I find out whether the Judicial Commission can deal with my complaint?

Anyone may make a complaint about the ability or behaviour of a judicial officer. A formal complaint must be in writing (using the Commission’s complaint form). Identify yourself and the judicial officer involved, provide a supporting statutory declaration that verifies the particulars of the complaint, then lodge the complaint with the Commission’s Chief Executive.

Try our complaint eligibility assessment or learn more about complaints.

2How long does it typically take to resolve a complaint?

Depending on the seriousness and complexity of the complaint, the Commission aims to finalise the investigation of 90% of complaints within 6 months and 100% within 12 months of receipt.

3What happens after I lodge a complaint? Will I be updated on the progress?

See our complaints process information.

4Where can I seek legal advice?

Please refer to the Where to seek legal advice page.

5How does the Judicial Commission ensure impartiality and fairness in 
investigating complaints?

The Judicial Commission is an independent statutory authority. The Commission’s decisions are not subject to review by the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Department of Justice, or the Parliament of NSW. The Attorney General may request information about a complaint and the Commission must provide this information unless it is not in the public interest to do so.

A Conduct Division, which is appointed by the Commission to deal with a specific complaint, is subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The court can only intervene if some form of legal error arising under administrative law principles can be identified. Each complaint is dealt with on its merits. It is Commission policy that a judicial member will not participate in any discussion or decision involving a complaint against him or her. No member will participate in any discussion or decision where that member has a possible conflict of interest.

Legal professionals

1What resources and publications are available for legal professionals?

2How can I access and utilise the Lawcodes database for my legal research?

The Lawcodes database is free and anyone can search it to find Law Part Codes and which provides unique codes to describe offences in NSW. Find associated text of legislation, a short and long description, penalties and more. 

Lawcodes can be accessed at https://lawcodes.judcom.nsw.gov.au/.

 

3How can I stay informed about any changes to the law?

Complaints process

1How can I find out if I am eligible to lodge a complaint?

Anyone may make a complaint about the ability or behaviour of a judicial officer. A formal complaint must:

  • be in writing (using the Commission’s complaint form)
  • identify yourself and the judicial officer involved
  • be supported by a statutory declaration that verifies the particulars of the complaint
  • be lodged with the Commission’s Chief Executive.

Click here to access guidelines for complaints and here for a flowchart of how a complaint is processed. Click here to download instructions for lodging a complaint against a judicial officer.

2What type of complaints can the Judicial Commission examine?

Only complaints about the ability or behaviour of a judicial officer. Common causes of complaint to the Commission about the ability or behaviour of judicial officers that may have affected the performance of judicial or official duties include:

  • failure to give fair hearing
  • bias
  • incompetence
  • inappropriate comments or questions
  • collusion
  • discourtesy
  • unreasonable delay.

Allegations of corruption must be raised with the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Click here to see a range of past complaint case studies.

3Who can the Judicial Commission investigate?

A “judicial officer” under the Judicial Officers Act 1986 means:

  • a judge or associate judge of the Supreme Court of NSW
  • a member (including a judicial member) of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW
  • a judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW
  • a judge of the District Court of NSW
  • the President of the Children’s Court of NSW
  • a magistrate, or
  • the President of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The definition of “judicial officer” includes acting appointments to a judicial office but does not include arbitrators, registrars, assessors, members of tribunals or legal practitioners. The Commission also has no power to examine complaints against members of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal who are not otherwise a judicial officer under the Judicial Officers Act 1986, federal judicial officers or a person who is no longer a judicial officer.

4What can't the Judicial Commission do?

The Commission cannot:

  • provide legal advice or legal representation
  • review a case for judicial error, mistake or other legal grounds
  • discipline or sanction a judicial officer
  • investigate allegations of criminal or corrupt conduct
  • investigate a complaint about a retired judicial officer, federal judicial officer, arbitrator, assessor, registrar, member of a tribunal or legal practitioner.

5Is the Judicial Commission independent?

The Commission is an independent statutory authority. The Commission’s decisions are not subject to review by the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Department of Justice, or the Parliament of NSW. The Attorney General may request information about a complaint and the Commission must provide this information unless it is not in the public interest to do so.

A Conduct Division, which is appointed by the Commission to deal with a specific complaint, is subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The court can only intervene if some form of legal error arising under administrative law principles can be identified. Each complaint is dealt with on its merits. It is Commission policy that a judicial member will not participate in any discussion or decision involving a complaint against him or her. No member will participate in any discussion or decision where that member has a possible conflict of interest.

6Can the Judicial Commission tell judicial officers what to do?

No. The Commission has no power to discipline judicial officers. Judicial independence requires that the judiciary are free from interference in the performance of their duties.

7Can I get informal advice from the Judicial Commission?

The Commission regularly provides information over the phone and/or in writing to potential complainants. The Commission is usually able to help by providing information or an explanation, referring you to another agency, advising you about the complaints process, or if the matter should be dealt with on appeal, advising you to seek independent legal advice. The complaint will only be considered when it is made in writing and includes the relevant information. See “How can I find out if I am eligible to lodge a complaint?” above.

8Is there a cost for making a complaint?

There is no cost involved in making a formal complaint about a relevant judicial officer to the Commission.

9Can I make a complaint anonymously?

No. The Judicial Officers Act 1986 requires you to provide your name and contact details to the Commission when you lodge a formal complaint.

10Is there a time limit on lodging my complaint?

The Commission will dismiss a complaint if it is of the opinion, after taking into account such matters as it thinks fit, that the matter complained about occurred at “too remote a time” to justify further consideration.

11What happens if the judicial officer retires before my complaint is resolved?

The complaint is dismissed because the Commission has no power to examine a complaint against a retired judicial officer.

12Do I need to get legal representation?

Normally, you will not need legal representation. However, if the Conduct Division decides to hold a hearing and requires you to be present, there may be special circumstances that will allow you to be represented by an Australian legal practitioner.

13Can I get an interpreter organised by the Judicial Commission?

Telephone interpreters can be arranged through Multicultural NSW language services.

14What will happen to my complaint?

The Commission will:

  • acknowledge your complaint in writing within one week of receipt
  • advise the judicial officer of your complaint and provide the judicial officer with a copy of the documentation
  • conduct a thorough investigation of the complaint (which may involve an examination of transcripts, sound recordings, judgments and other material relevant to the complaint)
  • if necessary, seek a response to the complaint from the judicial officer.

Following its preliminary examination, the Commission must take one of the following actions:

  • summarily dismiss the complaint
  • refer the complaint to the relevant head of jurisdiction, or
  • refer the complaint to the Conduct Division.

15What will happen if I make a false complaint?

Your complaint can be summarily dismissed if the Commission is of the opinion that your complaint is frivolous, vexatious or not in good faith.

16How does the Judicial Commission deal with vexatious complaints?

The Commission has power to declare a person a vexatious complainant. If this happens, the Commission can disregard any further complaints from the person until the declaration is removed.

17How long will it take to finalise my complaint?

The Commission aims to acknowledge receipt of all complaints within five working days. The Commission aims to finalise the investigation of 90% of complaints within six months of receipt and 100% within 12 months of receipt.

18What does it mean that the Judicial Commission’s decision is final?

The Commission’s decision on a complaint is final and there is no further avenue of appeal or review of the decision. The Commission’s investigations and decisions cannot be reviewed by the Attorney General nor the Department of Justice.

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