Over the last two days there has been extensive media coverage of the statement of the Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in relation to two complaints against a Judge of that Court, following an investigation conducted by the Court. The New South Wales Bar Association joins with the Law Council of Australia in commending the detailed investigations and inquiry process established by the Chief Judge.
The New South Wales Bar Association condemns any form of unlawful harassment and is committed to the elimination of unacceptable behaviour in our workplaces and to a safe and inclusive legal profession.
In order to assist members and anyone working in our profession who may be the subject of unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment or workplace bullying, the Association last year prepared a factsheet entitled “Who can I talk to about sexual harassment at the Bar?” and a comprehensive guide to support services and information about avenues of complaint in these circumstances which may assist to navigate various avenues available to raise such issues.
The Association offers support to members who may have experienced unacceptable workplace behaviour. The Judicial Officers Act 1986 (NSW) provides a means for any person to complain about the ability or behaviour of judges, associate judges and registrars. Complaints about a judicial officer's conduct may be made in accordance with those procedures.
Depending on the nature of the judicial conduct, however, barristers may prefer to raise their concerns through a different mechanism. Last year the Association settled a protocol with the Chief Justice dealing with complaints of judicial conduct which is available here.
The Protocol is designed to support barristers in such circumstances. Its aim is to enable a barrister to raise concerns with the Association, which can then be conveyed to the Court.
Under a similar Protocol developed by the Australian Bar Association and the Federal Courts, the President of the Australian Bar Association and the Presidents of State and Territory Bar Associations may raise any concerns on behalf of members with the heads of jurisdictions about judicial conduct.
I encourage members to draw instances of unacceptable workplace behaviour to the Association’s attention and take advantage of the formal and informal complaint processes set out in the Protocols.
I remind all members that BarCare is available for barristers who are in need of confidential assistance and support.
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