ALRC releases judicial impartiality consultation paper

The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) today released a consultation paper for the Review of Judicial Impartiality, and is calling for submissions on its questions and reform proposals.

The terms of reference for the inquiry ask the ALRC to consider whether:

• the law on actual or apprehended bias relating to judicial decision-making is sufficient and appropriate to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice

• the law provides clarity to decision-makers, the legal profession and the community about how to manage potential conflicts and perceptions of partiality, and

• the mechanisms for raising allegations of actual or apprehended bias, and deciding those allegations, are sufficient and appropriate.

The inquiry relates to the law as it applies to judges in the High Court, Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

To date, the ALRC has consulted with more than 140 individuals and groups, including current and former members of the judiciary and tribunals, the legal profession, litigants, non-profit legal services, community groups, and academics.

ALRC President Justice SC Derrington said judicial impartiality was central to justice, and systems to support it needed to reflect and respond to the realities of modern Australian society.

“Our consultation proposals and questions for this inquiry focus on enhancing the institutional structures that already exist to support impartial decision-making, along with the implementation of transparent procedures and guidelines, which are foundational to the rule of law and the public’s confidence in the administration of justice in Australia,” Justice Derrington said.

The ALRC invites submissions in response to 25 questions and proposals in relation to judicial impartiality and the law on bias. Submissions are due by 30 June 2021 and the ALRC is due to deliver its report to the Attorney-General by 30 September 2021.

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