New panel named to hear Douglas inquiry

The Canadian Judicial Council has appointed a new panel to continue the inquiry regarding Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas.

The Chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee has designated the Chief Quebec Superior Court Justice François Rolland will be the new committee chairperson and Supreme Court of British Columbia Associate Chief Austin Cullen, and Stewart McKelvey partner Christa Brothers from Halifax will round out the panel. The previous panel consisted of five people.

Douglas is facing sexual harassment allegations in light of her husband Jack King's admission of trying to lure former client Alex Chapman into a sexual tryst with Douglas in 2003.  The inquiry is looking into whether Douglas is guilty of sexually harassing Chapman, whether she failed to disclose the affair when she applied to become a judge, and whether compromising pictures of her on the Internet  have made it impossible for Douglas to remain a judge.

Last November, the entire committee looking into the allegations resigned  after saying it was no longer “in a position to complete this inquiry.”

The committee cited a number of factors that led to the wholesale resignation including the fact ongoing delays and associated costs over debates about the process itself were not in the public interest.

“In the normal course, by now the committee would have concluded its hearings, prepared its report, and forwarded it to the Canadian Judicial Council for consideration. As matters have transpired, more than two years have now gone by and the hearings have not been completed,” the committee said.

In a 10-page explanation signed by Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, Newfoundland and Labrador Chief Justice Derek Green, P.E.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacqueline Matheson, Barry Adams, and Marie-Claude Landry, the committee lamented the various judicial reviews Douglas has pursued and how those proceedings have interrupted their inquiry.

The inquiry, which began with a hearing in May 2012 has been dogged by delays brought on by numerous judicial reviews and resignations of both the committee’s independent counsel Guy Pratte in August 2012 and the wholesale quitting of the inquiry panel.

According to a CJC press release, the new inquiry committee must now decide on next steps in this matter. Updates will be provided on the CJC’s web site.

After completing its work, the committee is expected to report its findings to CJC, which must then make a recommendation to the Minister of Justice about whether or not the judge should remain in office.

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