what prevents a judge or another moderator from dismissing all defenses presented as irrelevant?

Federal Statute, Court Rules, code of ethics, common law tradition? If the moderator is just a moderator of a non-court related adjucating body (like the chair of a board), is he basically unrestrained?


You’re going to need to clarify the question before I can attempt to answer.

The fact that an appeals court will reverse such decisions, probably with language that will chew the relevant judge, mediator, etc., a new one?

I don’t think anything prevents dereliction of duty. But the defendant almost always has the option to appeal. It would be pretty incredible if multiple appeals courts unfairly screwed the same defendant in the same way.

You need to look at the overall process and who the judge/moderator answers to (at least in theory). Appointed judges are at least theoretically accountable to ethics tribunals, can be impeached, and can suffer professional embarassment through reversal of his/her judgments on appeal. Elected judges also answer to the voters. A chairman of a company answers to shareholders, and so on. And in a free society, anyone can suffer from bad press. But how restrained any of these actors feel by such stakeholders would certainly vary.

A lawyer I once talked to said that appeals courts will often decide to reverse a decision to send the judge a message; too many reversals and the judicial board (here in Canada) may examine his record. Plus, here in Canada many criminal trials on appeal of a guilty verdict may be sent back to the lower court to be re-heard… Basically, nope, you did this wrong, try again. By the third or fourth time around (has happened!) someone sees the light.

Grossly ignoring basic protocols is a quick way to earn a reprimand. As Patty says, if the whole appeals chain screws you over, then either the system is rotten or maybe they are right and you’re wrong? At the higher level courts most judges take their job pretty seriously. More often than not, the appeals courts are there to hear about and correct errors in procedure, not re-decide the arguments of the trial. Sending a case back to be re-heard is there way of saying “listen to the facts more closely to draw your conclusions”.

From the last part of the OP, I think he/she was really looking for things at the less formal end of the spectrum.

Yes, as a practical matter the chairman of your local home owners’ association can run the public meetings & any closed door deliberations in as corrupt a fashion as he/she desires. Your only recourse is to vote them out at the next election, or launch appeal to a higher authority, such as suing the HOA in local court to overturn the evil results of their flawed process.

For something even less important than an HOA, say a bridge club, where your damages are social & emotional, not monetary, your recourse is to vote the bastards out next time or vote with your feet by leaving the organization & perhaps starting a competing one yourself.

Starting a viral campaign online to expose the evil doers to the harsh light of public outrage is also a nice thing to do, but won’t undo whatever practical actions the bad guys have taken.

The only exception is that a seious organization (condo home-owner’s association, as opposed to a bridge club) can only spend money if duly authorized by its members according to the bylaws. Ignoring the rules in a less-than-trivial manner can result in a lawsuit saying “you are not authorized to spend money to do X”.

Quite right. But not all HOAs’ bylaws require an all-owners vote on significant expenditures.

We recently had a bit of a war in my HOA about that. Our 1960s-era bylaws let the Board adjust fees & make expenditures essentially unchecked by direct membership votes. That had worked fine up until about 2007.

At which point they attempted to double everybodies’ fees to pay for a white elephant project almost nobody wanted and the hue & cry went up. The Board did everything procedurally legit & in open meetings, but with so many homeowners with pitchforks in the room they decided that the project wasn’t *quite *so essential. And a dissident group got a bylaw revision on the next ballot to place solid dollar limits on the Board’s range of discretionary spending & to require an all-members vote on fee increases greater than some nominal increment over the CPI.

md2000, this is incorrect. There is no “judicial board” to examine a judge’s record in deciding cases. That suggestion goes contrary to the principle of judicial independence, which is a cornerstone of our court system: if a judge makes a mistake in a case, that’s what appeal courts are for, but the judge’s tenure is not in jeopardy. We want judges to make decisions without worrying about whether they might be removed from their position if someone doesn’t like their decisions. That principle dates back to the Act of Settlement of 1701, which established the principle that judges hold office “during good behaviour.”

There is the Canadian Judicial Council which has jurisdiction over federally appointed judges (and similar provincial judicial councils which have jurisdiction over provincially appointed judges). However, that Council has no power to review a judge’s track record in deciding cases, or to consider how often a judge is overturned on appeal. Rather, its jurisdiction is to review complaint about the conduct of a judge, not the decisions the judge makes:

The Council explains the distinction between decisions and conduct here:

Do you have any authority to suggest that lower court judges don’t take their job seriously? Got a cite?

All judges take their job seriously, in my opinion and experience. It’s not correct to suggest that only the higher level judges do so. If you’re sitting there, having to decide if someone has committed a criminal offence, and if so what sentence to give, I can’t imagine a more serious and weighty obligation.

No, this is incorrect. The trial judge is the finder of fact, and the appellate courts are bound by the trial judges findings of fact. They cannot substitute their own findings of fact, nor can they allow an appeal because they disagree with the findings of fact made by the trial judge. It’s only if the trial judge made a palpable and overriding error in the fact-finding process that the appellate courts can set it aside - and that’s a very high standard, rarely met.

See: H.L. v. Canada, 2005 SCC 25.

Yes, you said pretty much what I said. They can if it is serious, but rarely do, consider the facts. Usually an error in fact-finding, which is pretty much debatable, since the judge is usually deciding between conflicting “facts”, can result in a new trial.

As a trial-level magistrate in Ohio who was once a prosecutor and a civil litigator, I will echo Northern Piper to say that, almost without exception IME, judges and magistrates at all levels take their jobs seriously. We want to get it right and do justice. But if we don’t, there are objections and appeals to correct any errors. In this state, where judges are elected at all levels up to and including the state supreme court, flagrant misconduct could get you impeached, suspended or thrown out of office by the voters. Doesn’t happen very often, but it does happen.