Edit: The Bill had a second reading in the upper house, then disappeared into committee and was never heard from again. It lapsed at the end of the last parliamentary session, and would now need to be reintroduced to be considered by the new parliament.
Victoria’s Judicial Commission has arrived. The new legislation announced by the Attorney General in June has passed the Lower House. Once passed by the Council and given Royal Assent it will commence on the 1st January 2012, unless proclaimed earlier.
A government press release came out on 1st September, the date of First Reading. From there the Second Reading was moved a day later and Third Reading in the lower house passed by special majority today.
Rob Hulls said during the Second Reading,
Presently in Victoria, there are two methods for dealing with complaints and concerns about judicial conduct.
In cases where conduct may warrant removal from office, an investigating committee formed in accordance with the Constitution Act 1975 decides whether facts exist that could warrant removal. A judicial officer may be removed by the governor upon an address of both houses of Parliament by a special majority seeking removal due to proved misbehaviour by or incapacity of the judicial officer.
In cases of less serious complaints that do not warrant removal from office, there is currently no formal complaints process. In practice, the head of jurisdiction deals with these matters.
The bill combines processes for dealing with both serious and less serious complaints, and invests them in a single complaints body, thereby modernising the system and creating a more efficient and structured approach.
The Commission will be a public statutory body that handles complaints against the judiciary, both in a professional and private capacity. It will also have the ability to require judicial officers to undergo medical reviews where unfitness to perform offical duties is suspected. The Commission’s board will consist of ten members: six are the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Judge of the County Court, the Chief Magistrate, the President of the Children’s Court, the State Coroner, and the President of VCAT. The remaining four board positions will be appointed by the Attorney-General.
Parallels with the Judicial Commission of NSW are obvious. The education wing of the new Commission will take over the role currently played by the Judicial College, a move the College itself viewed cautiously.