If the first few days of the New Year are any indication, 2013 could be another annus horribilus for the reputation of Quebec judges with two sitting judges now barred from taking on new cases.
After days of media reports that two judges were the object of an ongoing investigation by the Surêté du Québec, the Court of Quebec issued a terse four-paragraph statement on Jan. 7 saying it is now looking into the conduct of one of the two magistrates — Rouyn-Noranda provincial court Judge Marc Grimard.
“The allegations that have been brought [against Grimard] are being taken very seriously by the court’s management,” reads the missive on the Quebec Court’s website. “For the time being, no new files will be assigned to Judge Grimard.”
The Canadian Judicial Council issued an equally short and taciturn statement the following day. It said it will be reviewing the conduct of the other judge named in the case — the Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Girouard, who also sits in the Abitibi-Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue region.
“The review concerns his conduct prior to his appointment to the Bench and includes an allegation that the judge would have participated in a transaction to purchase an illicit substance from a police informant,” reads the CJC statement.
“This is only an allegation: no facts have been established in this matter.”
Like his provincial court colleague, the CJC says no new cases will be assigned to Girouard during the review.
It says the federally-appointed judge will also have “a full opportunity to representations about the allegations.”
The allegations stem from a police bust of a drug trafficking ring in Quebec’s rugged Abitibi region, which forms much of the province’s northwest border with Ontario.
The bust was made in 2010, the same year Girouard was named to the bench for the region. Grimard has been with Quebec Court since 2004.
Both men were accused by a police informant inside the drug ring as regular customers for cocaine.
Several dozen people were arrested, including members of the Hells Angels. Firearms, drugs, a plane, a helicopter and nearly $1 million in cash were also seized.
The news is a bleak start to 2013 for the Quebec judiciary, which has had its fair share of bad press in recent years.
In 2011, for example, Quebec was rife with allegations of influence peddling over the nomination of judges.
And in June, retired Quebec Court Judge Jacques Delisle became the first Canadian judge to both stand trial and be found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his handicapped wife.