Bring Judicial Misconduct into the Open ; LEGAL OPINION ++ Complaints against Judges Have Risen in Recent Years. but, Asks Robert Verkaik, Law Editor, Why Won't the Lord Chief Justice Name and Shame the Guilty?

Article excerpt

When a barrister or a solicitor is found guilty of misconduct their names are usually made public by the body that regulates the legal professions. Public confidence in the Law Society and the Bar can only be maintained if their respective disciplinary bodies are transparent in their handling of complaints. But, should a similar allegationofmisconductbeupheld against a judge, there is no automaticprovisionforpubliccensure.

Many have argued that there appears little justification for granting judges anonymity while the professions from which they are drawn are denied the same protection. The senior judiciary respond by saying that because public confidence in the administration of justice is so important it must not be undermined by the airing of every slur or trivial finding of misconduct against a judge.

Last year the Government announced that there would be a new body to deal with complaints about judges, magistrates, coroners and tribunal chairmen. The OfficeforJudicialComplaints(OJC) now supports the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice in their joint responsibility for the system of judicial complaints and discipline. "We seek to ensure that all judicial disciplinary issues are dealt with consistently, fairly and efficiently," says a statement on the body's website. But still no mention of a list of names of offending judges.

Last week Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, announced a further shake-up of the system for the investigation and discipline of judges. But once again there was no reference to the need for more public scrutiny.

Instead Lord Phillips suggested a minor overhaul in the appeal system that many disgruntled judges have taken advantage of. He said he was "concerned" by the number of judges who challenge findings against them as a "matter of course, regardless of the merit". …