716. Deputy Marc MacSharry asked the Minister for Justice the plans to introduce ethical guidelines for judges to address conflicts of interest, such that all parties appearing in a case before judges are advised of any conflicts or potential conflicts of interest; and if she will provide an update on the work of the Judicial Council in this area, having regard to the July 2021 update on the Judicial Council’s website on this matter. [52112/21]


Minister for Justice (Deputy Helen McEntee): As the Deputy is aware, the position is that the courts are, subject only to the Constitution and the law, independent in the exercise of their judicial functions and the conduct of any court case is a matter entirely for the presiding judge.
Judicial conduct and ethical guidelines are the responsibility of the Judicial Council. As per Section 6 of the Judicial Council Act 2019, the Judicial Council is, subject to the provisions of the Act, independent in the exercise of its functions. Neither I nor my Department has any role in relation to the operation of the Council or its Committees.
One of the main pillars of the Judicial Council's remit is to promote high standards of conduct and I understand that the Conduct Committee was formally established with effect from 30 June 2020. It was required under the Act to submit to the Judicial Council Board draft guidelines concerning judicial conduct and ethics, within 12 months of its establishment. The guidelines will deal with admissibility of judicial complaints, informal resolution of complaints and codes for conduct and ethics.
I understand that the Committee submitted those draft guidelines to the Board on 28 June 2021, within the statutory timeframe. The Act further states that the Council must then adopt those guidelines within a further 12 month period from that date (i.e. by 28 June 2022 at the latest). Once the guidelines are in place, I will then make orders bringing into operation those relevant provisions of the Act which have not yet been commenced.
Panels of Inquiry (including lay membership) will conduct investigations of complaints referred by the Judicial Conduct Committee. This will allow for complaints about allegations of misconduct by serving judges.