YOUR LETTERS

Set up body to look into judicial conduct issues

I welcome the formation of the study committee by the Singapore Academy of Law, with the Law Society's participation, to look into the issue of lawyers' professional conduct ("Lawyers told to stop behaving badly in court"; July 19).

In a similar vein, this may also be an opportune time for the Singapore Academy of Law, where the Chief Justice is its current president, to seek feedback on the issue of judicial conduct from lawyers, the Law Society and other stakeholders of the legal profession.

I note that the Law Society president has relied on anecdotal feedback about lawyers from members of the State and High Courts. Anecdotal accounts of lawyers may well suggest that Singapore could do with a body to look into issues of judicial conduct.

Several world-class common law jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and England, now have an independent body of some sort that receives and considers feedback or complaints about judicial conduct.

Such a procedure does not, and cannot, provide a mechanism for disciplining a judge. However, it can offer a process by which complaints by a member of the public or a lawyer about judicial conduct can be brought to the attention of the Chief Justice and the judge concerned, and provide a platform for a complaint to be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

Such a body can be empowered to receive feedback about, among other things, racial or religious discrimination by judges, general rudeness of judges, misuse of judicial status for personal gain or advantage, failure to fulfil judicial obligations or duties, or failure by a judge hearing a matter to declare a potential conflict of interest.

In jurisdictions where such a body exists, it has been found that it has helped to enhance public confidence in and protect the impartiality and integrity of the judicial system. Such a body is even more necessary, given the statutory codification and enhancement of Singapore's contempt of court framework by Parliament in recent years.

Indeed, the Singapore Academy of Law may be best positioned to propose such a body through the work of its current study committee. I also hope it will use this opportunity to provide a responsible and constructive platform for a frank and candid discussion about the professional conduct of both lawyers and judges.

Dharmendra Yadav

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'Set up body to look into judicial conduct issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe