Public confidence in the impartial and independent administration of justice is a core element of the justice system. However, public confidence cannot be taken for granted. It must be continuously earned and replenished.[1] Whilst newly appointed judicial officers bring their legal expertise and experience to their new positions, the judicial role requires additional skills and expertise. It is the long experience of judges and of the Judicial Commission of NSW that excellence in judicial performance is best achieved when underpinned by dedicated judicial education. The Judicial Commission’s judicial education programs provide continuing practical support, assisting judges to administer justice in the courts in which they preside, which in turn assists in maintaining public confidence. In this regard, the online Handbook for Judicial Officers is an important resource for judicial officers.

The Handbook contains a collection of articles curated from a broad selection of judicial speeches and recent papers published in The Judicial Review and the Judicial Officers’ Bulletin, as well as articles by legal academics. Whilst principally directed to new judicial officers, the Handbook provides guidance to all judicial officers on all aspects of the judicial role.

The Handbook has been structured into three distinct areas.

Part 1 deals with the role of the judicial officer and the essential judicial qualities of independence, accountability, impartiality and fairness, reflected in the oath taken by every judicial officer to administer justice “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”. The Handbook then looks to the application of the judge’s oath in a discussion of cultural and linguistic diversity, ethics, efficiency, competence and case management.

Part 2 explores the judicial method and gives practical guidance to presiding over the court. Topics covered include effective judicial communication, decision-making, legal reasoning and judgment-writing. The role of judicial education concludes this part.

Part 3 examines current and future challenges that judicial officers might experience during their career. These include interactions with the legal profession, issues of bullying and sexual harassment, as well as the potential challenges for judicial officers inherent in socialising and in engaging in social media. Methods to combat bias, actual and unconscious, are discussed in practical terms. Stress caused by public criticism, vicarious trauma and unrepresented or vexatious litigants is examined and practical solutions are suggested. Non-adversarial justice and therapeutic justice, including running a trauma-informed court, are also examined as aspects of the judicial toolkit. The benefits and challenges of technology are then discussed with particular reference to artificial intelligence and online justice.

The Handbook will be updated as required. The Judicial Commission of NSW welcomes any comments from readers of the Handbook as to its scope and content.


Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC QC
Governor of New South Wales

[1] J Spigelman, “President’s foreword”, Judicial Commission of NSW, Annual Report 2009–2010, 2010, p 6. See also A M Gleeson, “A core value” (2007) 8(3) TJR 329.