Settlement reached to end CJC Douglas inquiry

Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas’ odyssey with the Canadian Judicial Council appears to have come to an end.

The panel investigating Douglas has agreed to a settlement that sees the judge voluntarily retiring in May.

Led by Quebec Superior Court Chief Justice Francois Roland, it agreed this afternoon that in light of that decision, proceeding with the hearing into her conduct is not in the public interest. That decision relates partly to appeals in the Federal Court  that would not be done before she steps down.

The agreement also stipulates "In light of her position as a judge, ACJ Douglas, though her counsel, acknowledges the duty of reserve and undertakes as a condition of this adjournment not to comment on this matter."

At the hearing, the Canadian Press reports her lawyer Sheila Block saying: “Even though she loved being a judge, considered it an honour and privilege to serve, she is at the point where this is the best choice for her, for her son and elderly father, for her late husband’s children, and the rest of her family."

“To withstand more weeks of hearing into entirely private matters and risk the viewing of her intimate images by colleagues and others, is more than she can bear.”

The CBC reports that due to the settlement, official hearings will be adjourned until May, and essentially as Douglas should be retired by then, the hearings will formally come to an end.

The full statement Block read to the CJC panel at the start of the hearing today is here.

In a statement issued late Monday, the CJC said:
The Canadian Judicial Council respects the decision of ACJ Douglas to retire and agrees that the public interest would not be served by further expending public funds for legal proceedings when the judge is retiring in 6 months.
Some of the issues arising from this matter have given rise to actions before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal. The Canadian Judicial Council agrees with ACJ Douglas that the public interest would not be served by pursuing these current actions before the courts. We also agree that there is no public interest in pursuing the review of other complaints currently pending against ACJ Douglas.
Council notes that no conclusions should be drawn about the merits of the allegations against ACJ Douglas or about the issues raised in the current court proceedings.

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 entire conduct committee last fall and the committee’s independent counsel Guy Pratte in August 2012.

The case relates to a complaint by Alex Chapman, a client of Douglas’ now-late husband, Jack King, that King showed him nude web photos of Douglas performing sexual acts and pressured him to have sex with her. King posted the graphic photos online without his wife’s knowledge. She was facing allegations she failed to disclose the photos when she applied for a position on the bench in 2004.

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 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.

Update 5:28 pm: Statement from Canadian Judicial Council added.

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