This training module covers what it is to be a judicial officer: What the judicial oath means and the 'dos and don'ts' of the role.
The module is best worked through with others, in order and over a series of sessions. The resources have been designed to be completed in a lunch hour or short evening session. But you can also dip into any of the resources by yourself at any time. Discussion questions will help you to tease out the specific issues you might encounter and what to do about them as you go.
Some judicial oaths don't include the specific wording we have followed but many do. The module covers universal principles for judicial officers in democratic common law countries and the principles are important even if your judicial oath doesn't mention them specifically. There are likely to be different issues that arise in your country. If you have questions about any of the content, please discuss with your colleagues and head of bench.
A lot has been written about the judicial role and we encourage you to search for other resources.
By the end of this module, participants will:
- Better understand the requirements of the judicial role in terms of independence, impartiality, transparency, diligence and ethical conduct, both on the bench and in their personal lives
- Build their ability to assess professional and personal risks and benefits of various actions, interactions and involvement in activities, both in court and in their personal lives
- Gain more insight into the personal challenges facing judicial officers, their colleagues and their families, and how best to manage these challenges
- Understand the concepts of bias and conflict of interest in the judicial context and be able to identify situations that might constitute actual or perceived bias or conflicts of interest
- Make sound decisions as to whether or not it is appropriate to preside over cases where there might be an actual or perceived bias or conflict of interest, and what to do about that
- Appreciate the diversity of the community and access to justice issues that result, and understand that treating all people the same results in inequitable outcomes
- Have an awareness of resources available for guidance if required.
This video features experienced judicial officer, Sir David Carruthers, formerly New Zealand’s Chief District Court Judge and Principal Youth Court Judge, discussing what's required of a judicial officer in their conduct on and off the bench. A short biography can be found here.
This video provides a discussion of universal principles for judicial officers around the world and from Sir David’s experiences. There are likely to be different issues that arise in your country and in your own jurisdiction. You can watch and consider it on your own at any time, but we encourage you to watch it with your colleagues and head of bench and to consider and discuss what is covered in the video and how it relates to your own experiences.
Video presentation on judicial conduct
This module discusses what judicial conduct means and how this must be maintained in and out of court.
This video features experienced judicial officer, New Zealand's Deputy Chief Coroner Anna Tutton, discussing conflict of interest. A short biography can be found here.
This video provides a discussion of universal principles for judicial officers around the world and from Coroner Tutton’s experiences. There are likely to be different issues that arise in your country and in your own jurisdiction. You can watch and consider it on your own at any time, but we encourage you to watch it with your colleagues and head of bench and to consider and discuss what is covered in the video and how it relates to your own experiences.
Video presentation on conflict of interest
This series of four videos focuses on the judical oath and what that means for a judicial officer in practice.
The videos feature discussion about what the judicial oath means to our three experienced judicial officers: Sir David Carruthers (formerly New Zealand’s Chief District Court Judge and Principal Youth Court Judge), Mere Pulea (former Fiji High Court Judge), and New Zealand’s Deputy Chief Coroner Anna Tutton. You can read their short biographies here.
Each video covers a different aspect or element of the judicial oath and is best watched in order.
Video session one focuses on the judicial oath, specifically what it means “to serve” as a judicial officer, including:
• Impartiality – treating people equally, neutrality
• Independence – free from outside control, influence or persuasion
• Professionalism – punctuality, diligence, and timeliness of judgments
• Accountability, transparency – providing clear reasons for decisions
• Teamwork – flexibility, courtesy, dignity and respect.
Video session two focuses on the phrase “without fear or favour, affection or ill will” that commonly features in the judicial oath across the Pacific, including:
• Impartiality – recognising bias, conflict of interest
• Independence – free from any outside control, influence or persuasion
• The Rule of Law – remaining free from political pressure or interference
• Accountability, transparency – providing clear reasons for decisions, based on evidence alone
• Natural justice – ensuring a fair and generally public process that enables equality of treatment
Duration: 18 min
Video session three focuses on the phrase “to right to all manner of people” that commonly features in the judicial oath across the Pacific, including:
• Equality before the law – using appropriate language to address people that are before the court, providing equal treatment no matter who the person is or where they come from
• Equity in the law – acknowledging that certain groups of people face obstacles that others do not and certain groups of people do not have equal access to opportunities or the ability to equal participation as others do.
Duration: 5 min
Video session four focuses on the phrase “laws and usages of [the land]”, or a phrase akin to that, which commonly features in the judicial oath across the Pacific, including:
• Decisions being made in accordance with the law – law as derived from statute law, case law and customary law
• Certainty (or uncertainty) of the law – knowing what the legal hierarchy is in your jurisdiction, as guided by the constitution, to deal with the potential for conflict between statute and customary law
• Knowing, or evidentially proving, customary law – obtaining evidence from community elders
• In-court versus out-of-court resolution – realising that the judicial role remains independent and free of any potential community resolution which seeks to prevent legal proceedings being commenced.
Duration: 19 min
We really appreciate hearing from you. Send us an email letting us know your experience of this module. This only takes a couple of minutes but lets us know how useful this resource was, and what else we might provide to assist in your learning.