CJC’s hearing in case of judge accused of using drugs kicks off next week

The allegations of a convicted drug dealer turned police agent and a confidential police informant are at the heart of an upcoming Canadian Judicial Council hearing into the conduct of Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Girouard.

The judge is alleged to have purchased and consumed illegal narcotics while he was a lawyer in northwestern Quebec, according to documents filed with the council last week.

Girouard, who was appointed to the bench in the fall of 2010, is vigorously contesting the allegations and challenging the jurisdiction of the council to preside over the matter.

None of the conduct is alleged to have taken place while Girouard was a judge. The allegations about drug use are described as so imprecise as to defeat the right to full answer and defence, his lawyer Gerald R. Tremblay argues in a written response to the council on March 16.

An inquiry committee will hear procedural arguments for two days next week in Quebec City before the evidentiary part of the hearings begins on May 4. The committee presiding over the conduct hearing is Chief Justice of Manitoba Richard Chartier, Chief Justice Paul Crampton of the Federal Court of Canada, and lawyer Ronald LeBlanc.

The hearing comes nearly two-and-a-half years after the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court ordered an investigation, based on information disclosed by police from a drug probe known as Operation Ecrevisse.

The vice chairman of the council’s conduct committee later sent the matter to a review panel, which in February 2014 ordered a full hearing.

Girouard was unsuccessful in a Federal Court challenge to the jurisdiction of the CJC to hear the allegations. Justice Luc Martineau, in a decision issued March 11, ruled the hearing could go ahead.

The first set of allegations are based on statements made to police by Michel Thibault, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011 for drug trafficking offences.

Thibault claims to have sold cocaine to Girouard on a number of occasions between 1987 and 1992. A police officer in Val D’Or also alleges he would see Girouard go to the bathroom frequently at a local bar and that he showed the “symptoms” of someone who had consumed cocaine, the documents state.

Several months after he was sentenced, Thibault approached the Sûreté du Québec and in October 2012, signed a contract to be an agent for the police. The specific terms of the agreement, including any financial compensation, have not been made public.

Thibault passed a lie detector test, according to the allegations. Girouard intends to challenge its admissibility at the hearing.

The allegations outlined by lawyer Marie Cossette, who is the independent counsel presenting the case to the CJC, also make reference to police surveillance of a video store in Val D’Or, owned by a former client of Girouard.

The store is alleged to be a place where drug transactions took place. Girouard is observed outside the store in 2010, with the owner.

There is no evidence before the inquiry committee that actually shows Girouard involved in any drug transaction, confirmed Johanna LaPorte, the CJC’s director of communications.

Statements that a confidential informant made to police about Girouard and the video store are also part of the allegations. However, Cossette has indicated to the inquiry committee that she intends to withdraw an allegation made by the informant that Girouard had three or four marijuana plants in the basement of his home.

All of the written documents connected to the proceeding have been posted in French only, on the CJC’s web site. LaPorte says it is seeking to have the allegations translated into English, as soon as possible.

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