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Home > Judicial Code of Conduct

Guide to Judicial Conduct

Introduction

This Guide to Judicial Conduct has its origin in a “Judicial Colloquium on Combating Corruption in the Judiciary” which I attended in Limassol, Cyprus in June 2002. Two of the recommendations of the Colloquium were:

“1. All judicial officers should be given training on anti-corruption issues and on the promotion of professionalism and integrity
both on appointment and at regular intervals during their tenure.

2. Such training shall include: (i) the promotion of awareness of the guidelines for judicial behaviour applicable in the judicial officer’s jurisdiction and the consequence of any breaches of those guidelines….“

In the years succeeding the Limassol Colloquium, the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges Association has encouraged Commonwealth States to develop and publish in permanent form the essential principles of ethical conduct required of judicial officers. Many precedents flow exist all over the Commonwealth and most of them have drawn heavily upon’the Bangalore Principles’. These principles were developed in February 2001 in Bangalore following the first meeting of the Judicial Group on Strengthening Judicial Integrity held in Vienna in April 2000.

This Guide follows the Bangalore Principles closely. It js intended to assist judicial officers in Barbados in dealing with ethical and
professional issues which may confront them during their judicial careers. It is also intended to inform the public about the principles
and canons ofjudicial conduct which apply to judicial officers.

I wish to stress, however, that the guidelines are ethical rules, not legal rules and, to that extent, they are not absolute and are not backed by sanctions expressly set out in the Guide. They describe the high standards with which all judicial officers should be conversant and to which they should aspire.

The Guide has been exhaustively discussed by the judges and magistrates and was referred to the Council of the Barbados Bar Association for its comments. That Council has commended it as “a worthy effort, comprehensive in its cope”. On 6 June 2006, the Judicial Council approved its publication.

It is my hope that existing and future judicial officers will find in this Guide useful and practical guidance about the conduct expected
of them. But I will also be satisfied if it is read by members of the public and seen as a contribution to the maintenance of public confidence in the administration of justice.

The rule of law and the independence of the judiciary depend greatly upon public confidence. Any failure by judicial officers to conform to best practices tends to undermine that confidence.

Guide To Judicial Conduct

Preable

WHEREAS the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes as fundamental the principle that everyone is entitled in full equality to
a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of rights and obligations and of any criminal charge.

WHEREAS the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees that all persons shall be equal before the courts, and that in the determination of any criminal charge or of rights and obligations in a legal proceeding, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and
public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

WHEREAS the foregoing fundamental principles and rights are also recognised or reflected in the Constitution of Barbados, at common law and in judicial conventions and traditions.

WHEREAS an independent judiciary is essential to the maintenance of the rule of law and for ensuring good governance.

WHEREAS public acceptance of the moral authority and integrity of the judiciary contributes to the maintenance of the rule of law and the promotion of good governance.

AND WHEREAS it is essential that judges, individually and collectively, respect and honour judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in the judicial system.

The following principles and rules promulgated in these Guidelines are intended to establish standards of ethical conduct for judges.
They are principles and rules of reason to be applied in the light of all relevant circumstances and consistently with the requirements of judicial independence and the law. They are designed to provide guidance to judges and to afford a structure for the regulation of judicial conduct. They are intended to supplement and not to derogate from existing rules of law or rules of conduct which bind judges.

Values

The values which these Guidelines uphold are:

  • Propriety
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Impartiality
  • Equality
  • Competence and Diligence
  • Accountability

Definitions

In these Guidelines, unless the context otherwise permits or requires, the following meanings shall be attributed to the words
used:

“Court staff” includes the personal staff of the judge including law clerks or judicial assistants.

“Judge” includes a magistrate.

“Judge’s family” includes a judge’s spouse, the judge’s son, daughter, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.It also includes any other close relative or person who is a companion or employee of the judge and who lives in the judge’s household.

“Judge’s spouse” includes a domestic parther of the judge or any other person of the opposite sex in a close personal relationship with the judge.

PROPRIETY

Principle:
Propriety, and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all ofthe activities of a judge.

Guidelines

1.1. A judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge’s activities.

1.2. As a subject of constant public scrutiny, a judge must accept personal restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary
citizen and should do so freely and willingly. In particular, a judge shall conduct himself or herself in a way that is consistent with the
dignity of the judicial office.

1.3. A judge shall avoid close personal association with individual members of the legal profession, particularly those who practise in the judge’s court, where such association might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favouritism or partiality.

1.4. Save in exceptional circumstancesor out of necessity a judge shall not participate in the determination of a case in which any member of
the judge’s family represents a litigant or is associated in any manner with the case.

1.5. A judge shall, as far as practicable, avoid the use of the judge’s residence by a member of the legal profession to receive clients or other members of the legal profession in circumstances that might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of impropriety on the part of the judge.

1.6. A judge shall refrain from conduct such as membership of groups or organizations or participation in public discussion which, in the mind of a reasonable, fair-minded and informed person, might undermine confidence in the judge’s impartiality with respect to any issue that
may come before the courts.

1.7. A judge shall, upon appointment, cease all partisan political activity or involvement. A judge shall refrain from conduct that, in the mind of a reasonable, fair-minded and informed person, might give rise to the appearance that the judge is engaged in political activity.

1.8. A judge shall refrain from:

(a) Membership of political parties;

(b) Political fund-raising;

(c) Attendance at political fund-raising events;

(d) Contributing to political parties or campaigns; and

(e) Taking part publicly in controversial discussions of a partisan political character.

1.9. A judge shall not allow the judge’s family, social or other relationships improperly to influence the judge’s judicial conduct and judgment as a judge.

1.10. A judge shall not use or lend the prestige of the judicial office to advance the private interests of the judge, a member of the judge’s family or of anyone else, nor shall a judge permit others to convey the impression that anyone is in a special position improperly to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties.

1.11. A judge shall not testify voluntarily as a character witness, except that a judge may testify as a witness in a criminal proceeding if
the judge or a member of the judge’s family is a victim of the offence or if the defendant is a member of the judge’s family or in like exceptional circumstances.

1.12. Subject to the proper performance of judicial duties, a judge may engage in activities such as:
(a) writing, lecturing, teaching and participating in activities concerning the law, the legal system, the administration of justice and related matters;

(b) appearing at a public hearing before an official body concerned with matters relating to the law, the legal system and the administration of justice or related matters;

(c) serving as a member of an official body devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, the administration ofjustice or related matters.

1.13. A judge may speak publicly on non-legal subjects and engage in historical, educational, cultural, sporting or like social and recreational activities, if such activities do not detract from the dignity of the judicial office or otherwise interfere with the performance of judicial duties in accordance with these Guidelines.

1.14. A judge may participate in civic and charitable activities that do not reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality or interferewith
the performance of judicial duties. A judge should not be involved in fund-raising or membership solicitation.

1.15. A judge shall not serve as the executor, administrator, trustee, guardian or other fiduciary, except for the estate, trust or person connected with a member of the judge’s family and then only if such service will not interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties.

1.16 Save for holding and managing appropriate personal or family investments, a judge shall refrain from being engaged in other financial or business dealings as these may interfere with the proper performance of judicial duties or reflect adversely on the judge’s impartiality.

1.17 Confidential information acquired by a judge in the judge’s judicial capacity shall not be used or disclosed by the judge in financial dealings or for any other purpose not related to the judge’s judicial duties.

1.18 A judge shall not practice law whilst the holder of judicial office and, after ceasing to hold office, a former judge should not appear in courts as an advocate but is not otherwise precluded from giving opinions and doing non-contentious work outside of court.

1.19 Except as consistent with, or as provided by, constitutional or law, a judge shall not accept appointment to a government commission, committee or to a position that is concerned with issues of fact or policy on matters other than the improvement of the law, the legal system, the administration of justice or related matters. However, a judge may represent the judge’s country or the state on ceremonial occasions or in connection with historical, educational, cultural, sporting or like activities.

1.20 A judge may form or join associations of judges or participate in other organizations representing the interests of judges to promote professional education and training and to protect judicial independence.

1.21 A judge and members of the judge’s family, shall neither ask for, nor accept any gift, bequest, loan or favour in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by the judge in connection with the performance of judicial duties.

1.22 Subject to law and to any legal requirements of public disclosure, a judge may receive a small token gift, award or benefit as appropriate to the occasion on which it is mad e provided that such gift, award or benefit might not reasonably be perceived as intended to influence the judge in the performance of judicial duties or otherwise give rise to an appearance of partiality.

1.23 A judge may receive compensation and reimbursement of expenses for the extra-judicial activities permitted by these Guidelines, if such payments do not give the appearance of influencing the judge in the performance of judicial duties or otherwise give the appearance of impropriety, subject to the following restrictions:

  • (a) Such compensation and reimbursement shall not exceed a reasonable amount nor shall it exceed what a person who is not a judge would receive for the same activities; and
  • (b) Reimbursement shall be limited to the actual cost of travel and accommodation reasonably incurred by the judge and, where appropriate to the occasion, by the judge’s family. Any payment in excess of such an amount is compensation.

1.24 A judge shall make such financial disclosures and pay all such taxes as are required by law.

INDEPENDENCE

Principle:
An independent judiciary is indispensible to impartial justice under the law. A judge should therefore uphold and exemplify judicial independence in both its individual and institutional aspects.

Guidelines:

2.1 A Judge shall exercise the judicial function independently on the basis of the judge’s assessment of the facts and in accordance with a conscientious understanding of the law, free of any extraneous influences, inducements, pressures, threats or interference, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason.

2.2 A judge shall reject any attempt to influence his or her decision in any matter before the judge for decision where such attempt arises outside the proper performance of judicial duties.

2.3 In performing judicial duties, a judge shall, within the judge’s own court, be

independent of judicial colleagues in respect of decisions which the judge is obliged to make independently.

2.4 A judge shall uphold safeguards for the discharge of judicial duties in order to maintain and enhance the institutional and operational independence of the judiciary.

2.5 A judge shall exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct in order to reinforce public confidence in the judiciary and in a requirement that is fundamental to the maintenance of judicial independence.

INTEGRITY

Principle:
Integrity is vital to the proper discharge of judicial office.

Guidelines:
3.1 A judge shall ensure that his or her conduct is above reproach in the view of reasonable, fair-minded and informed persons.

3.2 The behavior and conduct of a judge must reaffirm the people’s faith in the integrity of the judiciary. Justice must not merely be done but must also be seen to be done.

3.3 A judge, in addition to observing personally the standards set out in these Guidelines, shall encourage and support their observance by others.

IMPARTIALITY

Principle:
Integrity is vital to the proper discharge of judicial office.

Guidelines:
4.1 A judge shall perform his or her judicial duties without favour, bias or prejudice.

4.2 A judge shall ensure that his or her conduct, both in and out of court, maintains and enhances the confidence of the public, the legal profession and litigants in the impartiality of the judge and the judiciary.

4.3 A judge shall, so far as is reasonable, so conduct himself or herself as to minimize the occasions on which it will be necessary for the judge to be disqualified from hearing, ruling or adjudicating in a cause or matter.

4.4 A judge shall not knowingly, while a proceeding is before, or could come before, the judge, make any comment that might reasonably be reviewed as likely to affect the outcome of such proceeding or impair the manifest fairness of the process. Nor shall the judge make any comment in the public or otherwise that might affect the fair trial of any person or issue.

4.5 A judge shall disqualify himself or herself from participating in any proceedings in which the judge is unable to decide the matter impartially or in which a reasonable, fair-minded and informed person might believe that the judge is unable to decide the matter impartially.

4.5.1 A judge must be sensitive to the fact that fraternal bodies are shrouded in mystery and clothed with a perception of secrecy and of providing unconditional assistance to members in times of need, trouble and distress. Persons who are not members of such bodies are likely to conclude that a litigant, belonging to the same fraternal body as a judge, may enjoy an unfair advantage. In such circumstances, it would be appropriate for a judge to disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the impartiality of the judge might reasonably be questioned.

4.5.2 A judge should therefore recognize that transparency assists in combating corruption and suspicions, and he or she should encourage judicial colleagues and the court staff to assist in promoting the intrinsic merits of transparent conduct and infusing public confidence in the role, functions and operations of the court.

4.6 A judge shall disqualify himself or herself, in any proceedings in which there might be a reasonable perception of a lack of impartiality of the judge including, but not limited to, instances where:

  • (a) The judge has actual bias or prejudice concerning a party or personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the proceedings;
  • (b) The judge previously served as a lawyer or was a material witness in the matter in controversy.
  • ( c) The judge, or member of the judge’s family, has a financial interest in the outcome of the matter in controversy.

4.7 A judge shall inform himself or herself about the judge’s persona; and fiduciary financial interests and shall make reasonable efforts to be informed about the financial interests of members of the judge’s family.

4.8 A judge who otherwise be disqualified on the foregoing grounds may, instead of withdrawing from the proceedings, disclose on the record the basis of such disqualification. If. Based on such disclosure, the parties, independently of the judge’s participation, agree in writing or on the record, that the judge may participate, or continue to participate, in the proceedings, the judge may do so.

4.9 Disqualification of a judge is not required if necessity obliges the judge to decide the matter in controversy including cases where no other judge may lawfully do so or where, because of urgent circumstances, failure of the judge to participate might lead to a serious miscarriage of justice. In such cases of necessity, the judge shall still be obliged to disclose to the parties in a timely way any cause of disqualification and ensure that such disclosure is included in the record.

4.10 Save for the foregoing, a judge has a duty to perform the functions of judicial office and litigants do not have a right to choose a judge.

EQUALITY

Principle:
Ensuring equality of treatment to all before the courts is an indispensable precept that governs the due discharge of the duties of judicial office.

Guidelines:

5.1 A judge shall strive to be aware of, and to understand, diversity in society and differences arising from various sources, including but not limited to race, colour, sex, religion, national origin, caste, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation. Social and economic status and other like causes.

5.2 A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct, manifest bias or prejudice towards any person or group on irrelevant grounds.

5.3 A judge shall carry out his or her duties with the appropriate consideration for all persons be they lawyers, parties, witnesses, court staff or judicial colleagues while upholding the paramountcy of adjudication according to law.

5.4 A judge shall not knowingly permit court staff or others subject to the judge’s influence, direction or control to differentiate between persons concerned, in a matter which is before the judge, on any irrelevant ground.

5.5 A judge shall require lawyers in proceedings before his or her court to refrain from manifesting, by words or conduct, bias or prejudice based on irrelevant grounds. This requirement does not preclude legitimate advocacy where any such grounds are legally relevant to an issue in the proceedings.

5.6 A judge shall not be a member of, nor associated with, any society or organization which practices unjust discrimination such that it may or might inhibit or thwart the judicial process.

5.7 Without authority of law and notice to, and consent of, the parties and an opportunity to respond, a judge shall not engage in independent, personal investigation of the facts of a case before him or her.

5.8 Without authority of law and notice to, and consent of, the parties and an opportunity to respond, a judge shall not, in the absence of the other parties to the proceedings, communicate with any party to the proceedings in the judge’s court such proceedings.

COMPETENCE AND DILIGENCE

Principle:
Competence and diligence are prerequisites to the due performance of judicial office.

Guidelines:
6.1 The judicial duties of the judge take precedence over all other activities.

6.2 A judge shall devote his or her professional activity to judicial duties. Such duties are broadly defined and include only the performance of judicial duties in court, including ruling and the making of decisions, but such other tasks that are related to the judicial function or the operations of the court.

6.3 A judge shall take reasonable steps to maintain and enhance the judge’s knowledge, skills and personal qualities necessary for the proper performance of judicial duties.

6.4 A judge shall keep himself or herself informed about relevant developments of law, including international conventions and other instruments establishing human rights norms and, within any applicable limits of constitutional or other law, shall conform to such norms wherever they are applicable.

6.5 A judge shall perform all judicial duties efficiently. These duties extend to the delivery of reserved decisions fairly and with reasonable promptness. Save in exceptional cases and for good reasons, a judge shall endeavour to deliver a reserved judgment within 8 months. Where a judge reasonably believes that he or she is likely to reserve judgment for more than 8 months, the judge shall inform the Chief Justice of the circumstances contributing to delay.

6.6 A judge shall maintain order and decorum in all proceedings in which the judge is involved. He or she shall be patient, dignified and courteous in relation to lawyers, litigants, witnesses and others with whom the judge is called upon to deal in an official capacity. The judge shall require similar conduct of legal representatives, court staff and others subject to the judge’s influence, direction or control.

6.7 A judge shall not engage in conduct incompatible with the diligent discharge of judicial duties.

ACCOUNTABILITY

Principle:
Compliance of judges with the principles of these Guidelines is essential to the effective achievement of the objectives contained in these Guidelines.

Guidelines:

7.1 Under Part 1X of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, Cap.117A and the Third Schedule thereof, the judiciary is accountable to the Parliament of Barbados. To the extent that all judges of the Supreme Court are members of the Judicial Council, they should ensure their regular attendance at and participation in meetings of the Judicial Council.

7.2 By the very nature of the judicial office judges are not, except in accordance with the law, accountable to any organ or entity of the state for their judicial decisions but they are accountable for their conduct and may be removed from office in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of Barbados.

7.3 The implementation of these Guidelines shall take into account the legitimate needs of a judge, by reason of the nature of judicial office, to be afforded protection from vexatious or unsubstantiated accusations and due process of law in the resolution of complaints against the judge.

7.4 The judiciary and the institution established to implement these Guidelines shall promote awareness of the principles and the provisions contained therein.