Complaints about 191 of New Zealand's judges have been received during the past year, including for a perceived insensitive and overbearing reaction to a lawyer introducing herself in te reo Māori.
Details of the complaints from the year to July 21 are outlined in the Judicial Conduct Commissioner's latest annual report, which was released this month.
The number of judges with complaints has dropped from 223 in the previous year .
There remain, however, 81 unfinalised complaints from 2017-18, the report reads.
A single complaint can relate to more than one judge, particularly if an issue arises from the Supreme Court or Court of Appeal where multiple judges preside over a case.
Of the total 191 complaints about individual judges, the number of actual complaints was 158 for 2018-19.
Most of the complaints are dismissed - some 78 per cent in the past year - but if considered serious enough, Judicial Conduct Commissioner Alan Ritchie will refer them to one of New Zealand's chief judges, the Heads of Bench.
Allegations of prejudice, bias or unprofessional behaviour are common complaints, Ritchie said.
His report shows there were eight formal referrals to the country's top judges, which occurs when a complaint is neither dismissed by Ritchie nor leads to a judicial conduct panel.
One referral was made to the Chief High Court Judge, Justice Geoffrey Venning, five to the Chief District Court Judge, now Justice Jan-Marie Doogue , and two to the Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall.
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There was also one other referral by the Deputy Judicial Conduct Commissioner, Kathryn Snook, after both she and Ritchie determined they had a conflict of interest, which was examined by Justice Venning.
The single complaint referred to the Chief High Court Judge related to "an insensitive and overbearing reaction" to counsel introducing herself in te reo Māori, Ritchie's report stated.
Last November, Auckland-based Justice Timothy Brewer was reported as questioning whether Crown lawyer Zannah Johnston was "making a political point" when she spoke in Aotearoa's native language.
Justice Brewer said he did not speak or understand Māori and asked if Johnston wanted an interpreter.
No complaint from the past year, however, led to Ritchie recommending a judicial conduct panel to the Attorney-General, which could see a judge removed.
The referrals to the Chief District Court Judge were for an instance of apparent failure to dispose of work promptly, overbearing behaviour and an alleged failure to disclose a possible conflict of interest.
Other complaints included a question over the adequacy of guidance and training relating to mental health issues, and an instance of overbearing behaviour undermining the rights of a defendant in a criminal trial and the role of counsel.
The two referrals to the Chief Coroner were for issues of delay and communication in the handling of a single inquest.
There were also five further referrals to the Chief District Court Judge, which Ritchie described as informal.
These included two instances relating to attention to the rights of victims and the behaviour of a judge, which Ritchie said was "marginal" when examined against the judicial conduct guidelines.
Two issues arising out of a single case were also raised about the legal basis for issuing a judgment naming the subject of a suppression order.
Ritchie said the suppression complaints were dismissed because they fell outside his jurisdiction by inviting him to challenge or question the legality or correctness of a judge's decision.
"There is no power in my hands to alter any judicial decision and, of course, [that] requires complaints to be dismissed if they are about a judicial decision that is or was subject to a right of appeal or a right to apply for judicial review," he said.
The report showed there have been no complaints arising from circumstances unconnected with judicial duties "though one or two have alleged conduct outside court precincts relating to perceptions of partiality".
Some complaints allege wrong-doing by a judge, such as demonstrating palpable loss of temper and repeated shouting but it is "simply not substantiated by audio recordings of hearings", Ritchie said.
"Sometimes, however, unprofessional behaviour is substantiated and there have been referrals to Heads of Bench of behaviour which appears overbearing, harassing, bullying or otherwise.
"That is a pertinent point given relatively recent media highlighting of concern about that sort of conduct."
In a survey of the legal fraternity by the New Zealand Law Society last year, judges were deemed responsible for 44 per cent of bullied lawyers working in criminal law and 50 per cent of barristers who felt they'd been bullied.
The Heads of Bench also had a meeting with former Chief Justice Sian Elias about judicial bullying after the survey's results were released.
Ritchie said he receives a few complaints every year about former judges, but has no jurisdiction over them, while there are also several complaints about lawyers, police and government departments.
"Usually, however, such complaints are linked to judicial conduct," he added.
If a complaint is dismissed by Ritchie, the next step for an aggrieved party is to seek a judicial review.