Disciplinary proceedings against a Judge- The Supreme Council of Judicature may remove a judge from office in a case of a proven serious misconduct in the exercise of his judicial functions.
Complaints had been filed with the Supreme Council of Judicuture, by advocates, litigants, lay members of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, as well as by two Trade Unions and two Employers Federations against the Presiding Judge of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal of Nicosia (Hereinafter referred to as the Judge), with regard to alleged misconduct in the exercise of his judicial functions. The complainants alleged that the Judge’s constant and frequently contentious interventions and his comments during trials revealed his bias and luck of impartiality, and distorted the fairness of proceedings.
The Industrial Disputes Tribunal consists of the Presiding Judge and two Lay Members of the Court who are nominated by the Trade Unions and the Employers Federations respectively and appointed by the Supreme Council of Judicature. The Supreme Council of Judicature consists of the President and twelve Justices of the Supreme Court of Cyprus and has inter alia, disciplinary powers over all Judges, including the power of dismissal of Judges on account of serious misconduct in the exercise of their judicial functions.
The judge was served with a written notice setting forth the allegations against him. By a letter to the Supreme Council of Judicature, the Judge stated his position and explanation on the matter. The President of the District Court of Nicosia was then appointed as an investigating officer who interviewed the complainants, other witnesses as well as the Judge under investigation, and finally submitted a report to the Council. On the material before it, the Supreme Council of Judicature decided that a disciplinary process was warranted and proceeded with the filing of charges against the Judge, for serious misconduct. The Judge was called to appear before the Supreme Council of Judicature and plead to the charges. He pleaded not guilty. The proceedings were not held in public in accordance with the Judge’s wish. The witnesses appeared before the Council, read and adopted the contents of their depositions and were cross-examined by senior counsel appearing for the Judge. At the end of the case against the Judge, the Council found a prima facie case against him. The Judge chose to give evidence himself and he called numerous defence witnesses.
In order to prove the case against the Judge, witnesses (including lay members of the Industrial Disputes Tribunal, advocates and litigants) gave oral evidence and substantiated the charges against him. Furthermore, numerous files of proceedings (over which the Judge presided) were presented to the Council, clearly revealing impermissible interventions by the Judge during the proceedings, with the aim of influencing the outcome of cases and leading them to the result favoured by the Judge.
Upon consideration of the whole evidence that had been adduced and of all the material facts before it, the Council was satisfied that the alleged misconduct of the Judge had been proved. The Judge’s improper behaviour, consisted of rude behaviour in the courtroom, lack of due consideration to all persons (parties, witnesses, counsel and lay members of the Court), constant remarks and interventions during the trial process based on grounds of favouritism, prejudice and bias and above all demonstrating keen interest in the outcome of cases. Such acts amounted to serious breaches of judicial conduct, prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The Council therefore found that the Judge’s acts and misconduct constituted sufficient grounds for his impeachment and his removal from office. It was stressed that the decisions of a Judge should not be influenced by his personal views, beliefs or opinions he may hold on various issues. Judges should discharge their functions with due respect to the principles of equal treatment of parties, non bias, honesty, integrity and impartiality, thus safeguarding the constitutional fundamental right (enshrined in Article 30 of our Constitution) that everyone is entitled to a fair trial. Judges should in all circumstances act impartially thus ascertaining the independence and integrity of the judiciary, paramount features of the administration of justice. The purpose of these proceedings was not to punish Judges but to uphold the high standard of justice.
The decision of the S.C.J was not unanimous. The President and eleven Justices concurred, one Justice dissented, holding that, in his opinion, the evidence adduced did not come up to the serious charge of misconduct.