Canada’s Judicial Council is reviewing a complaint of alleged misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Russell Brown. Created in 1971, the Judicial Council works to “carry out investigations into improper conduct and maintain the standards of the profession.” Justice Brown has been on leave since February 1, 2023. Neither the Supreme Court’s spokesperson nor the Judicial Council was willing to comment on the reason for Justice Brown’s leave of absence, citing confidentiality concerns. Justice Brown’s absence is unlikely to hamper the Supreme Court’s operations. Under the Supreme Court Act, Canada’s “Supreme Court can sit with between five to nine judges.” (CBC)
In late February, Guatemalan judge Jimi Bremer ordered an investigation into nine journalists from the El Periodico newspaper. The decision by Judge Bremer is “the government’s latest move against the newspaper known for hard-hitting investigations of public officials and government wrongdoing.” This investigation comes less than a year after a judge ordered El Periodico’s founder, José Rubén Zamora, to stand trial last December for “charges of money laundering, influence peddling and blackmail.” The attacks by the Guatemalan government on El Periodico are part of a larger effort by the government to weaken anti-corruption efforts. (Associated Press)
The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued its concluding observations of China, Hong Kong, and Macao. The Committee expressed its concern that the June 2020 national security law imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong “has de facto abolished the independence of the judiciary of Hong Kong.” In response, Hong Kong’s government objected to the UN committee’s findings, calling them “totally unfounded . . . [and] utterly perplexing.” Human Rights advocates have roundly criticized the national security law since it was enacted for undermining the “basic civil and political rights [that were] long protected in Hong Kong.” (Hong Kong Free Press)
On March 17, the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II issued arrest warrants for President Vladimir Putin and his Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova. After considering the ICC Prosecutor’s February 22 applications, the Pre-Trial Chamber II ruled “that there are reasonable grounds to believe that each suspect bears responsibility for the war crime of unlawful deportation of population and that of unlawful transfer of population from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.” The ICC’s decision to issue arrest warrants for Putin and Lvova-Belova sends a strong message of international condemnation for Russia’s war in Ukraine. However, the long-term impact of the warrants remains uncertain. (ICC)
In recognition of the International Day of Women Judges, ICJ judges Hanqin Xue, Hilary Charlesworth, and Dame Rosalyn Higgins were interviewed by the United Nations in Western Europe and shared their perspectives on women’s participation in the judiciary. The judges’ comments highlighted the progress made in achieving greater gender parity in the judiciary, and emphasized the necessary work that remains to ensure that women can participate equally in judicial work. (UN News)
On March 1, the Bolch Judicial Institute awarded the 2023 Bolch Prize for the Rule of Law to the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ). Since the 2021 takeover by the Taliban, the IAWJ has worked heroically to evacuate and resettle members of the Afghan judiciary. A documentary is linked here for more information on the acute threat facing female members of the judiciary in Afghanistan. Links to the 2023 Bolch Prize ceremony recording and remarks are available here and here.
In a March 23 address, Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to forge ahead with his government’s plan to increase its control over the judiciary. Demonstrations against the proposed reforms have continued and drawn participants from “many parts of society — including military reservists, who play a key role in the daily operation of the armed forces.” In a letter to Netanyahu after his March 23 speech, Israeli attorney general, Gali Baharav-Miara, called Netanyahu’s statement “illegal and tainted by a conflict of interest.” Netanyahu’s speech came hours after “his coalition passed a law making it more difficult to remove him from office.” On March 27, in response to intense widespread protests, Netanyahu announced that he would delay his government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary, although it’s unclear whether the delay will appease protests or impact reform efforts. (NY Times)
On March 13, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) called on the Sri Lankan government to respect an interim order issued by the Sri Lankan Supreme Court. The order bars the Finance Ministry Secretary and Attorney General from “withholding funds for local government elections.” The government responded to the order by referring the judges who issued the order to the Parliamentary Committee on Ethics and Privileges. ICJ Legal and Policy Director, Ian Seiderman, criticized the government’s referral decision and said the action “sets a dangerous precedent in a country where the independence of the judiciary is already fragile.” On March 22, the Asia, Australia, North America and Oceania (ANAO) Region of the International Association of Judges (IAJ), also released a statement, expressing deep concern about the developments in Sri Lanka. The statement asks Parliament to “consider the universally recognized primacy of the judiciary in protecting the rule of law as it goes forward.” (ICJ; ANAO)
The New Mexico Supreme Court suspended an attorney for over a year “for making ‘groundless, provocative, and legally meritless’ accusations about a judge overseeing one of his cases.” The suspended attorney accused the judge of “showing favoritism toward supposed former clients” and supported this assertion by “relying on ‘disquieting rumors’ in his motion.” The New Mexico Supreme Court’s per curiam opinion highlighted the unique harm posed by the attorney’s baseless attack. “When an attorney casts unfounded doubt on the integrity of a judge, the public’s perception of the legal system is at great risk because attorneys are rightly perceived by the public as being in a unique position to comment on the judiciary.” (Law360)
The March 2023 Global Judicial News Report was compiled and written by Grady S. MacPhee, J.D., LL.M. candidate at Duke University School of Law.