Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judge Robert Stroud was officially removed from a case by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia yesterday. It ruled Stroud had showed a “reasonable apprehension of bias” in favour of one of the parties.
The case involved Robert Moses Truckair, who faces six charges of violating the federal Fisheries Act.
Prior to pre-trial arguments in March, defence lawyer Ralph Ripley challenged several comments made by Stroud.
According to the Cape Breton Post, on a jurisdictional question over excluding certain documents, Stroud had said: “But I must say, I read the Crown’s brief and I was very impressed with that and I am inclined to think the Crown is right that I don’t have jurisdiction here. I mean I wouldn’t want to say it with your client being here but since he’s not here, I think it would be a waste of your client’s money to proceed with this. I just think, I am convinced by the Crown’s argument that you have no basis for this.”
The Post reported when defence counsel asked if he should continue to present argument, Stroud said he wanted Ripley to try to “unconvince” him. “After 24 years on the bench, I think I am capable of being unconvinced. Maybe I was a little too strong in saying I was convinced,” said Stroud.
Stroud declined to recuse himself from the case and suggested Ripley was judge-shopping in a bid to get his client a better decision.
Ripley filed an application for Stroud’s removal before the Supreme Court and argued at the hearing last month in Sydney that viewed collectively Stroud’s comments amounted to a reasonable apprehension of bias.
In her 21-page decision yesterday removing Stroud, Justice Cindy Bourgeois noted: “The comments would certainly contribute to a reasonable person concluding there was a reasonable apprehension of bias, and that the provincial court judge’s mind was not ‘perfectly open’ to the positions of both parties.”
Bourgeois removed Stroud and also ordered the case be heard by another Provincial Court judge.
“With respect, the Provincial Court judge’s subsequent comments that he had not made a final determination and that his previous comments may have been expressed too strenuously, do not serve to unring the bell,” wrote Bourgeois.
Ripley said he was pleased with the Supreme Court decision, adding that it’s unusual for a judge to be recused from a case that way.
Truckair is now scheduled to appear in provincial court Nov. 21 when it is expected his case will be formally assigned to a new judge, reports the Post.