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Australia's Judicial System and the Role of Judges

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2009
148 pages
This report provides a detailed overview of Australia's judicial system, the role of the judiciary, and recommendations for improvements to the judicial system.
This report prepared by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee is comprised of seven chapters beginning with an introduction into the structure of the report, and followed by chapter 2, which provides an outline of the context for the inquiry and an introduction to the issues. Chapter 3 discusses methods of judicial appointment and selection criteria, including whether there is a need in Australia for a judicial appointments commission. Chapter 4 addresses judicial terms of appointment, including tenure and age of retirement, and the use of acting and part-time appointments. Chapter 5 considers jurisdictional issues and the interface between the Federal and State judicial system, such as judicial exchange, possibility of a national judiciary, and the cross-vesting of cases. Chapter 6 discusses termination of a judicial appointment (other than through retirement or reaching the compulsory retirement age) before dealing with existing complaint handling procedures and some concern about the current arrangements. Lastly, chapter 7 explores options for more sophisticated judicial complaints handling, such as establishing a judicial complaints commission. Highlights of the 16 recommendations presented by the Committee on Australia's judicial system include: 1) the High Court of Australia adopt a written complaint handling policy and make it publicly available; 2) no personal details of either the complainant or judicial officer be identifiable from these reports; 3) the process for appointments to the High Court should be principled and transparent; 4) the High Court of Australia Act 1969 prohibition on Federal judges holding another office of profit be retained; 5) the Commonwealth government establish a Federal judicial commission modeled on the Judicial Commission of New South Wales; and 6) within 12 months the government undertake planning and budgetary processes necessary for the establishment of this commission. Appendixes