The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has welcomed today’s announcement by federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC committing the Government to implementing all three recommendations in the ‘Without Fear or Favour: Judicial Impartiality and the Law on Bias’ report.
The Attorney-General confirmed that the Government accepted in principal:
- Recommendation 5 – establishment of a Federal Judicial Commission
- Recommendation 7 – development of a more transparent process for appointing federal judicial officers on merit involving publication of criteria for appointment and public calls for expressions of interest (he also expressed the Government’s commitment to promoting diversity in the judiciary)
- Recommendation 8 – collection and reporting of statistics on judicial diversity.
Implementation of these recommendations by Government, following further consultation, will support litigant and public confidence in judicial impartiality and strengthen institutional structures to support judges and address systemic biases.
ALRC President Justice SC Derrington said the inquiry had found that public confidence in Australian judges was generally high, and that judges took their oath of office to administer impartial justice seriously.
“The implementation of the recommendations will strengthen an already good system,” she said. “The establishment of a federal judicial commission would build on the successful work of judicial commissions in the states and territories upholding the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”
Over the course of the Inquiry, more than 2000 people across Australia contributed their views to the ALRC through surveys and consultations. Those consulted included litigants and other court users, current and former members of the judiciary and tribunals, the legal profession, non-profit legal services, community groups, and academics. The consultations informed the recommendations which will now be implemented.
The inquiry was prompted by decision of a Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in Charisteas v Charisteas which concerned personal contact between the trial judge and counsel for one of the parties.