The Australian Federal Court is expected to announce a judicial reform package to improve its independence and accountability within days.
Key points:A judicial reform panel has been appointed to review the role of the judiciary in the nation’s legal systemWhile the package is yet to be released, the Federal Court will be asked to identify ways to increase transparency and accountabilityThe Federal Court of Australia (FCA) is the highest court in the land, but the Government is keen to bring in a judicial panel to oversee the way the judiciary is run in the country.
Key Points:The panel has not yet been namedThe proposed reform will see the Federal Government set up a Judicial Review and Inquiry Commission (JRCI)The JRCI will report back in 2019 to ParliamentAn inquiry will be set up to determine how the judiciary should be reformedThe Government has already indicated it is looking to strengthen the Federal Judicial Tribunal (FCT) to increase its independence, and a panel of the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) is set to investigate the role the judiciary plays in Australia.
The FCT currently has no independent oversight, and the Government has set up the JRCIs Judicial Review Panel (JRP) and a Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the court system functions.
The proposed Judicial Reform and Inquiry Panel (JRRP) is expected by the end of the year.
The panel will have two members, a former Federal Court judge and a former Australian Capital Territory chief justice, with a further five to be chosen by the Government.
The commission will also have the power to appoint independent members to the CJIs Judicial Committee (JCC), and to appoint other senior staff to the judiciary.
“We are looking to increase our independence and the level of transparency and control that the judiciary has in Australia,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said in an interview with Fairfax Media.
“The panel, as well as the JCRP, will report to Parliament in 2019 and will then take a long time to make recommendations.”
Justice Minister Michael Keating said the panel would have the ability to “impose its own rules” and to “take an independent view of matters”.
“The commission, which will have the statutory powers of the Court, will also be able to recommend changes to legislation, including those in the public interest, in relation to the operation of the court,” he said.
“So we’re looking to introduce some changes to our courts in Australia that will create greater accountability and transparency and transparency to the Australian public.”
The panel’s first report will be released in September 2019.
“It will also look at the role that the Court plays in ensuring the integrity of our legal system, and how we can improve the integrity and effectiveness of the judicial system in the Australian community,” Mr Keating added.
“In the coming months we will also examine the role and role of other relevant bodies within the Federal Courts and the Commonwealth of Australia, and our Commonwealth and State governments.”‘
A huge opportunity’Justice Minister Keating is keen on giving the panel the powers to increase accountabilityThe Government is expected, however, to make a decision on the JRP’s appointment before the end and then make its recommendations to Parliament, he said, adding that the Government will not have the option to reject the panel’s recommendations.
“I think the JRRP is a huge opportunity, and I think it is important that we are given the opportunity to make the right decision,” Mr Keenan told reporters.
“What we need to do is put the right balance between ensuring that the system works and also ensuring that we have a system that’s efficient and fair.”
That’s what we’re going to do with the panel.
“The Justice Minister has previously suggested the JRA could be used to overhaul the way courts are managed in Australia, particularly the way judges and magistrates are selected.”
One of the great challenges for us is that the courts are being restructured, and we need the right people to be selected to be part of the process,” Justice Keating told the ABC in June.”
Some of these decisions will be made by the judiciary, and some will be taken by the public and some of those decisions will need to be reviewed by the court and by the panel.
“And so I think that we need a mechanism in place where people who have expertise and have the knowledge to review those decisions can come forward.”
He also suggested that the JAC should not have a role in selecting judges and senior magistrates.
“To be fair, there is a lot of overlap in the role between the judiciary and the judiciary but there is also a lot that we can do to strengthen our ability to make sure that judges and members of the magistrates’ jury are able to do their job without having to worry about whether they’re going through the process of selecting judges or members of a jury,” Justice Keenan added.’
It’s a big opportunity’Mr Keenan has previously been critical of the role played by the Federal Magistrates’ Association (FMA