At least $3 million spent on Douglas inquiry

It’s hard to get precise numbers on how much the Canadian Judicial Council proceedings against Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas cost, but numbers from the body itself as well as the Commissioner For Federal Judicial Affairs given some detail on expenses for the hearings as well as the lawyers involved.

“Roughly, we are estimating that to date, there’s been approximately $3 million spent on the inquiry,” says Johanna Laporte, director of communications and registry services for the judicial council.

That estimate includes the commission’s own costs for the hearings but not the expenses for the various outside lawyers involved in the proceedings, Laporte notes. Those numbers appear on the public accounts for the judicial affairs commissioner, according to Laporte. She says billings on that list represent the fees charged by the various lawyers involved, including Sheila Block and Suzanne Côté (now a Supreme Court of Canada justice).

The most recent numbers, tabled in the House of Commons Oct. 29, cover the fiscal year 2013-14.

The firm with the top billings since the hearings began was Torys LLP, whose lawyers, including partner Block, acted for Douglas. For the most recent year posted, the commissioner paid the firm $630,919. Those numbers don’t include the current 2014-15 fiscal year. The commissioner also paid Torys $723,686, according to the 2013 public accounts, and $191,691 the year before.

Also on the list is Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, which billed $293,786 in the most recent fiscal year, according to the public accounts. Côté, formerly head of the Montreal litigation practice at Osler, acted as independent counsel at the inquiry prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court.

In addition, the commissioner paid Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre Cornish LLP $303,616 last year. The firm’s Freya Kristjanson was counsel to the judicial council in the judicial review application related to the inquiry, according to the firm’s web site.

Other billings were from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, whose partner, Guy Pratte, had acted as independent counsel at the inquiry prior to Côté. According to the 2013 public accounts, the commissioner paid the firm $422,546 that year. The 2012 public accounts list payments of $211,459 to the firm.

Lawyer Rocco Galati’s firm, which acted for Alex Chapman, the former client of Douglas’ now-late husband whose complaint led to the proceedings, received $116,191 from the commissioner, according to the 2013 public accounts.

Lawyer Ed Ratushny, who acted as a consultant to the inquiry committee, received $198,967 that same year.

Also on the list of billings for 2013 was Vancouver’s Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP. The firm’s former partner, now-B.C. Supreme Court Justice George Macintosh, had acted as the lawyer for the inquiry committee members. The commissioner paid the firm $239,366 that year.

The proceedings against Douglas, of course, came to an end after the panel investigating her conduct agreed to a settlement that would see her voluntarily retire in May 2015. Led by Quebec Superior Court Chief Justice François Roland, it agreed that in light of that decision, proceeding with the hearing into her conduct wasn’t in the public interest.

The proceedings have come under heavy scrutiny, with critics arguing they were an unfair intrusion into Douglas’ personal life. The case related to a complaint by Chapman that Douglas’ husband, the late Jack King, had showed him nude web photos of the judge performing sexual acts and had pressured him to have sex with her.

The case continued for several years as Douglas challenged the proceedings in court and Pratte resigned from his role. The costs provided by Laporte are an estimate as she says there are still bills to come in.

“There are still some residual invoices to be paid,” she says.

The 2014 public accounts for the commissioner also list a payment of $486,251 to Norton Rose in trust. Legal Feeds was unable to confirm if Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP acted on the Douglas matter.

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