Quebec judge challenging judicial council’s powers

Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Girouard is challenging the Canadian Judicial Council’s jurisdiction to launch a conduct hearing against him stemming from an allegation he bought illicit drugs at time he was a lawyer.

In a judicial review application filed to the Federal Court of Canada in March but that has just come to light, Girouard, who denies drug the allegations, argues, “Only a provincial authority has the ability to investigate and make a finding on the conduct of a lawyer.”

His application, submitted in French, adds that a federal authority cannot substitute or infringe upon the judicial authority of provinces and law societies.

The drug allegation came after a police witness told authorities in 2012 that he sold cocaine to Girouard at the time the judge was still a lawyer.

The complaint was first considered by Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada Chief Justice Edmond Blanchard, vice chairman of the CJC’s judicial conduct committee. But last year, the council said it was appointing a three-judge review panel to look into the case further.

“After considering all the available information, including the judge’s response to the allegations, Chief Justice Blanchard has decided that this matter warrants further consideration,” the council said last October.

In his judicial review application, Girouard argues the process followed so far by the CJC has “generally been in a manner that infringes upon the independence of federally appointed judges.”

Judges cannot be suspended without a joint act of Parliament, but no cases have been assigned to Girouard since the investigation was launched.

The Canadian Judicial Council has not responded to a request for comment on the judicial review application.

Girouard, who denies he bought cocaine when he was a lawyer, notes in his judicial application that a client of his was once under a police investigation when he paid him a visit. Documents exchanged during that visit are subject to client-solicitor privilege, says his application.

Girouard became a superior court judge in September 2010. He was previously a partner with Girouard Adam et Associates in Val-D’Or, Que., where he practised business, banking and insurance law, and family law.

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