CJC clarifies role of independent counsel

The Canadian Judicial Council’s inquiry committee has released a ruling on preliminary issues in the case of Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas.

The inquiry committee was established to investigate a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint filed against the judge in September 2010.

Alex Chapman, a client of the judge’s husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, issued the complaint, claiming King showed him nude web photos of Douglas performing sexual acts and pressured him to have sex with her. It’s alleged that Douglas didn’t know the photos had been posted online or about King’s conversation with Chapman.

Douglas has been on leave from the court since the complaint was sent to the CJC.

King was reprimanded after he pleaded guilty to professional misconduct. He admitted to showing Chapman the photos.

One of the main purposes of the ruling was to clarify the role of independent counsel, which will be undertaken by Guy Pratte, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. The committee ruled that independent counsel is there to simply present the case and that the committee will have the final say in the proceedings.

“The role of independent counsel is to assist the committee in carrying out its responsibilities by gathering, marshalling and presenting the case against the judge before the committee,” states the ruling.

“Independent counsel may make recommendations but must carry out his duties in a manner that does not impinge on the discretionary decision-making responsibility of the committee.”

In relation to a question of what to do about a second complaint, which arose in the form of two discs submitted anonymously to the CJC, the committee ruled that it will be handled separately from the complaint already under investigation.

The committee also issued several orders:

1) Independent counsel must provide the written complaint, review panel decision, and all related documentation immediately.

2) Independent counsel is also to provide notice of allegations to the committee, the judge’s counsel, and any other parties granted standing by 6 p.m. on May 18.

3) All written submissions in relation to the discs must be in by June 7.

4) The discs will be provided to the committee’s counsel immediately but will not be reviewed, subject to the committee’s decision.

Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, chairwoman of the committee, sought to have these preliminary issues clarified ahead of the public hearings into Douglas’ conduct set for May 19 in Winnipeg. It will focus on procedural matters, including who can take part in the inquiry.

For more background see: CJC launches public inquiry into Manitoba judge in sex scandal
CJC names committee to hear Douglas case
King reprimanded in wake of naked judge photo scandal

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