In a letter to the editor under the heading “Public locked out of justice process” on Sept. 13, the writer criticizes a B.C. Supreme Court judge for decisions made, suggests that he is biased in favour of an accused, and suggests that he is “unfit”.
By virtue of judicial independence, the Supreme Court justice is limited to the court process to communicate about his decision making and so is unable to defend himself.
There are two methods by which actions of judges of the B.C. Supreme Court are overseen. The first is the appeal process. The correctness of their rulings is subject to appeal, and if they are determined to be incorrect given the facts and circumstances before the judge, they will be overturned. Bias is a ground for appeal. The second relates to “fitness”.
The Canadian Judicial Council’s mandate is, in part, to receive and review complaints about the conduct of any B.C. Supreme Court judge, so that the public has a way to voice its complaints and the judge has an opportunity to respond in a fair way.
Judicial independence ensures that every person who comes before the courts is heard by an ajudicator with no stake in the outcome. The presumption of innocence is key to a free society. We call upon our judges to rise above the emotional content of tragic cases and to preside fairly and impartially. At the same time, the availability of an appeal and a fair process for reviewing judicial conduct ensure accountability.
Sharon D. Matthews, president
Canadian Bar Association,
British Columbia Branch