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The Forum > Article Comments > Judges, public service and accountability > Comments

Judges, public service and accountability : Comments

By Trevor Hoffman, published 29/10/2009

In 2005 Victoria introduced one of the worst designed and most ineffectual judicial complaints systems in legal history.

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I read Mr Hoffmans earlier article on judges and accountability and had a hard job believing that judges could get away with the sort of behavior he said. Its interesting Rob Hulls has decided to change the complaint system though. Perhaps Mr hoffman was right? I see back then Mr Hoffman also referred to judges as public servants. Whats the chief judges problem with being called a public servant?
Posted by jaco, Thursday, 29 October 2009 4:24:02 PM
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I would assume that the CJ's rejection of the appellation 'public servant' derives from the view that a public servant forms part of the govermental bureaucracy, is answerable to their departmental heads and through them to the relevant Minister - ie they are essentially an arm of Executive Government. Naturally the CJ takes the view that the judges are an instrument of the Judiciary - a seperate arm of power under the traditional triumvirate of Legislative, Judicial and Executive.
Of course, one could argue that the judiciary are already highly accountable through the appeals process. Judicial decision-making is regularly the subject of review through this process with judges often being overturned on appeal. Of course, not every bad decision gets appealed and appeals are often costly.
Posted by J S Mill, Thursday, 29 October 2009 5:21:49 PM
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It doesnt matter what the CJs problem is it doesnt get round the fact that if you serve the public you are a public servant. I dont know that judges are "highly accountable" through the appeals process. If Mr hoffman was right in his earlier article a bad trial judge can easily fool the appeals process.
Posted by jaco, Friday, 30 October 2009 8:19:15 AM
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With respect Jaco, you seem to have correctly identified that the argument is merely definitional.
If we accept your definition - that a public servant is anyone who serves the public - then everyone is a public servant, from the Head of the Health Department through to McDonald's workers and Westpac call-centre employees. Stretching the definition in this way makes the term somewhat meaningless - how many people would seriously consider their local shopkeepers public servants?
Posted by J S Mill, Friday, 30 October 2009 1:03:02 PM
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To argue about who is or isnít a public servant, is meaningless unless you work from a definition. The fact judges belong to a different arm of government from people in Public Health is no argument for claiming judges are not public servants, but if Iím reading this correctly thatís just a distraction. It seems the real issue is Rob Hulls is not happy with the judicial complaint scheme and wants to change it to make judges more accountable. I suggest J S Mill read Mr Hoffmanís earlier article as I just have (thanks Jaco) and he will see why.
Posted by michbo, Friday, 30 October 2009 3:08:48 PM
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JS Mill is confusing 'serve' as in 'sell or provide' with 'serve' as in 'work for'. My worry is that if Mr hoffman is right and judges can easily cheat the appeals process then if theres no proper complaint system they dont have to account to anyone. Surely this is why Rob Hulls is going to change the system for complaining about judges conduct.
Posted by jaco, Monday, 2 November 2009 9:04:46 AM
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