Federal Court dismisses several motions relating to Douglas inquiry

In ongoing legal wrangling in the Canadian Judicial Council’s inquiry committee into a sexual harassment and discrimination complaint against Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, two Federal Court orders [1 and 2] were released yesterday, which dismissed several motions brought forward by parties in the inquiry.

Since the release of these court orders, CJC communications director Johanna Laporte says they are expecting the Federal Court to set a hearing date for the judicial review application.

Laporte also tells Legal Feeds the inquiry committee planned to resume hearings in late July but Douglas has filed a motion for a stay of the proceedings until the Federal Court motions are heard. Now the inquiry committee has to decide if it will proceed with the hearings despite the judge’s motion for a stay.

“It’s regrettable that there have been delays,” she says.

The inquiry has been plagued by multiple delays, including the resignation of independent counsel Guy Pratte in August and most recently the motions dismissed by the Federal Court.

The first motion, submitted by Canada’s Attorney General Rob Nicholson, sought to have him removed as a party respondent due to the fact that he holds the position of AG and minister of Justice. The minister argued his separation from the inquiry is “necessary to preserve the independence of the judiciary and to avoid the perception that the minister may have pre-judged the outcome of the process when he receives and acts upon the CJC’s recommendation with respect to the removal of a judge.”

In dismissing Nicholson’s request for removal, Federal Court Prothonotary Mireille Tabib wrote: “Parliament has indeed empowered the CJC to investigate complaints and allegations made against judges, including those sufficiently serious to warrant their removal. However, as s. 71 of the Judges Act makes abundantly clear, neither the creation of the CJC’s inquiry process nor the CJC’s exercise of its investigative powers in any way detract, remove or constrain the constitutional rights, powers or duties of the Minister of Justice, or of the Houses of Parliament, in the removal of judges.”

Another motion was submitted by Alex Chapman — the client of Douglas’ husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, who launched the complaint claiming King showed him nude web photos of Douglas performing sexual acts and pressured him to have sex with her.

Chapman wanted to be named a necessary respondent to the application from Douglas seeking a review of the inquiry committee’s decision not to step down after Douglas’ counsel tried to disqualify the committee over alleged apprehension of bias. Chapman claimed he was a party to the hearings before the inquiry committee, which makes him a necessary party to the judicial review.

But Tabib wasn’t convinced. “[T]he general understanding that parties to the original proceedings are automatically to be named as respondents when these proceedings are subject to judicial review was developed in the context of adversarial proceedings, in which the competing rights of two or more parties are adjudicated, and not necessarily where the proceedings, as here, are in the nature of an inquiry,” she wrote.

In addition, she noted Chapman was not granted standing as a party in the proceedings before the inquiry committee and therefore he is not directly affected by any order sought in the application.

Chapman also sought an order staying and/or quashing the judicial review, which was also dismissed.

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