The courtroom is the workplace of lawyers working in criminal law. “They, like everyone, are entitled to a working environment free from bullying, harassment and prejudice,” New Zealand Law Society President Kathryn Beck says.
“As our Chief Justice has said, any bullying behaviour by members of the judiciary is completely unacceptable.
“A Criminal Bar Association survey shows that by far the highest proportion of respondents said they had experienced harassment or bullying from a judge. This cannot be ignored and it is clear from the quick response from the Chief Justice that it is viewed extremely seriously.
“It is an essential element of our justice system that Judges have authority in the court. This must be exercised with respect for those appearing before them whether they are lawyers, plaintiffs, defendants or the court staff.”
Ms Beck says the Law Society has been contacted in the past by lawyers who are concerned about the behaviour of judges.
“We have no authority for investigating judicial conduct. However, when issues are raised with the Law Society we work to resolve these where possible and we raise such issues with the appropriate head of bench.
“We are discussing the survey findings with the Criminal Bar Association. We note and endorse the comments made by the Chief Justice encouraging those who are affected or who observe such behavior to raise their concerns with the head of bench, with the Chief Justice, or to make a complaint to the Independent Judicial Conduct Commissioner. The New Zealand Law Society is also there to assist and support any lawyers who encounter problems.”