CJC launches public inquiry into Manitoba judge in sex scandal

The Canadian Judicial Council said today it would be conducting a public inquiry into Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, shining an even-brighter spotlight on the debate over the appropriate conduct of judges in their private lives.

The CJC launched a full investigation of a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against Douglas in January. A review panel of five judges has concluded that the matter may be serious enough to warrant the judge’s removal from office and has that an inquiry committee should investigate the matter, says the CJC.

In accordance with council’s Inquiries and Investigations By-laws, the inquiry committee will have an uneven number of members, with the majority being CJC members. The minister of Justice will appoint one or more members, who must be lawyers with at least 10 years of experience.

The CJC says an independent lawyer will be selected to present the evidence at the inquiry. More details about the panel will be coming down the road.

This is the first inquiry committee taking place since changes were made to the CJC’s bylaws and procedures in October 2010. These changes were made to streamline some of the key steps for reviewing complaints against federally appointed judges.

Douglas stepped aside from her courtroom role last summer after the complaint arrived at the CJC. The allegations come from Alex Chapman, who was a client of the judge’s husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King.

Chapman claims King pressured him to have sex with Douglas, and showed him naked pictures posted online of the judge performing sex acts. King said Douglas was unaware both of the photos being posted online and his actions with Chapman.

Earlier this year, King pleaded guilty to professional misconduct and received a reprimand. He admitted sharing photos with Chapman, but his lawyer said his client was acting without his wife’s knowledge.

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