‘Nothing remotely culpable’ about Douglas’ conduct, judge’s counsel argue

Legal proceedings will continue in the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry involving Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas this week as she seeks to have the inquiry committee dismiss the allegations against her without a formal hearing on the basis that she herself is a victim.

“The Allegations against Douglas ACJ are proceeding amid rapidly evolving perspectives on the harms occasioned to victims of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images,” wrote her counsel, Sheila Block, Molly Reynolds, and Sarah Whitmore, in submissions dated Oct. 15.

“Since the time when the Review Panel made the decision to strike an Inquiry Committee to investigate allegations against Douglas ACJ, significant academic, legislative, and social changes have taken place that support the growing recognition that women whose intimate images are distributed without their consent are victims of a gendered form of abuse and worthy of protection while the perpetrators are morally culpable and deserving of criminal punishment.

“A decision to hold a formal hearing . . . sends the message that Douglas ACJ is morally culpable for her conduct at issue in the facts underpinning these allegations, namely her lawful decision to engage in consensual sex with her husband and her expectation that her victimization could not reflect negatively on herself or the judiciary,” her counsel continued. “There is nothing remotely culpable about Ms. Douglas’ conduct. The suggestion that the allegations may support a recommendation for removal would cause an unequal chilling effect on female judicial applicants.”

The long-running case relates to a complaint by Alex Chapman, a client of Douglas’ husband, Jack King, that King showed him nude web photos of Douglas performing sexual acts and pressured him to have sex with her.

The first allegation in the judicial council’s case against Douglas suggests she failed to disclose anything about the situation in a personal history form related to an application for judicial appointment. The second allegation suggests the photos “could be seen as inherently contrary to the image and concept of integrity of the judiciary, such that the confidence of individuals appearing before the judge, or of the public in its justice system, could be undermined.”

“The fact that the photos were distributed to anyone through any medium was a violation of Ms. Douglas’ consent, autonomy, dignity, and privacy,” wrote her counsel in the Oct. 15 submissions.

On Oct. 13, the CJC denied Douglas’ request to have the hearings moved from Manitoba. As such, it has scheduled two weeks of hearings in Winnipeg beginning Nov. 24. In the meantime, Douglas is to present her motion to dismiss the allegations today. In the alternative, she’s seeking to have the photos deemed inadmissible in any further proceedings before the inquiry committee.

A new Judicial Conduct Committee will be involved in these hearings. Last November, the entire committee looking into the allegations resigned after saying it was no longer “in a position to complete this inquiry.”

In March, a new panel was named with Quebec Superior Court Chief Justice François Rolland as the new committee chairperson and Supreme Court of British Columbia Associate Chief Austin Cullen, and Stewart McKelvey partner Christa Brothers from Halifax rounding out the panel. The previous panel consisted of five people.

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

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