Former Justice Secretary David Oughton has been appointed as the Judicial Complaints Lay Observer for a term of two
years. Mr Oughton had been appointed in August on an interim basis following the resignation of Sir John Robertson, who
died later in the year.
The role of Judicial Complaints Lay Observer has been created to allow for the independent review of the handling of
complaints about the conduct of members of the judiciary. The Lay Observer handles situations where the conduct only of
judges is involved, not their decisions.
Mr Oughton is a semi-retired consultant. He retired from the position of Secretary for Justice in 1994 after 41.5 years
in the Public Service. Since retiring he has carried out a wide variety of projects and reviews for various
organisations, mostly in the public sector, his most recent task being an investigation into the leaking of documents
Mr Oughton's experience as Secretary for Justice will prove valuable in this role, Associate Justice Minister Margaret
“His understanding of the courts and the judicial system, his familiarity with the concepts of natural justice and
procedural fairness and his understanding of the principle of judicial independence and of New Zealand's constitutional
framework will be of benefit to complainants and the judiciary”.
Background - complaint procedures
Members of the public who have a complaint about the behaviour of a judge must make their complaint in writing to the
relevant Head of Court. If the Head of Court decides that the complaint does not have substance, the complainant may
refer the matter to the Lay Observer. The Lay Observer has the power to review the complaint, the way it was processed,
any response from the Judge, and any other matters that may be relevant. If the Lay Observer considers that a decision
not to pursue the complaint should be reviewed, the Lay Observer can request the relevant Head of Court to reconsider
A booklet, Judicial Complaints Process is available. It gives a full description of the complaints process. The booklet
is on-line at
The Lay Observer can be contacted by writing to:
The Judicial Complaints Lay Observer