Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Pratte the Cat!"

Good Day Readers:

That's our private name for Guy Pratte Independent Counsel to the Douglas Inquiry. Don't know how we ever came up with that moniker other than he's nimble afoot - some of his legal moves seem to be almost cat-like as he pounces.
"The Cat" with potential nemesis Sheila Block lead counsel for Lori Douglas

Have chatted with him outside the Inquiry and he seems to be an affable, friendly, dapper enough sort of chap. Only thing is he gets a tad prickly when it's suggested that no Independent Counsel for any Public Inquiry should be considered omnipotent. They do make mistakes so civilian oversight has merit.
One need only look at the appointment of Lori Douglas to Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench where the Appointments Selection Committee composed exclusively of lawyers displayed a woeful lack of internet savvy assuming since the pictures had not shown up for a few years they never would - everything was cool. Wrong! Perhaps. a little layperson oversight could have avoided the mess in which Manitoba's legal community currently finds itself.

We have chosen not to share with you our moniker for Sheila Block lead Counsel to Lori Douglas.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Douglas to testify at inquiry
By Cristin Schmitz
July 13, 2012 Issue
Pratte
In what is sure to be gripping testimony in a unique legal and personal drama, Justice Lori Douglas will soon take the stand to defend herself against the sexual harassment allegations her lawyer contends are “a complete fabrication.”

What has been largely overlooked so far in the coverage of the sensational case is that the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry that is disclosing private details of the judge’s sex life is also ripping through the curtain of secrecy that surrounds the appointment of federal judges under a process established in 1988.

When the inquiry resumes in Winnipeg on July 16, lawyers and the public can expect, for the first time, to see behind the scenes of the politically charged federal appointment scheme, and to hear key players describing their involvement in Douglas’s appointment to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) in 2005 (she is now associate chief justice).

According to the opening remarks of lawyers at the inquiry last month, the questions of “who knew what, when” about the graphic sexual photos of Justice Douglas that wound up on the Internet in 2002 (and related incidents) will feature prominently when more than a dozen witnesses are called by independent counsel Guy Pratte.

The five-person inquiry committee will hear from former Liberal justice minister Irwin Cotler, who appointed Douglas, then a respected family law practitioner, after she applied for the third time in 2004.

Her previous applications had failed — ​at least in part because the court’s then-chief justice, Marc Monnin, opposed her candidacy out of fear she could be blackmailed if the nude photos that her husband posted on the Internet were misused by a third party, according to opening remarks of counsel.

Justice Monnin eventually dropped his opposition because he thought enough time had passed and the matter had been resolved. But he also made sure that the judicial appointments advisory committee (JAC) vetting Douglas’s application was informed of the matter’s history, Justice Douglas’s counsel, Sheila Block, told the inquiry June 26.

Pratte also plans to examine Manitoba Court of Appeal Justice Martin Freedman, the then-chair of the JAC that, in a rare move, deputized Margaret-Rose Jamieson, the senior Ottawa official overseeing judicial appointments within the Office of the Commissioner of Federal Judicial Affairs, to question Justice Douglas about the matter.

Another aspect of the case that is being closely watched  is the final question on the personal history form all would-be judges must fill out: “Is there anything in your past or present which could reflect negatively on yourself or the judiciary, and which should be disclosed?”

Justice Douglas is accused before the inquiry of failing to be “appropriately candid” when she responded “no” to that question.

But the question itself is flawed, University of Ottawa legal ethics professor Adam Dodek said. “The question is far too general, and should be more specific in targeting the types of activities that the committee is concerned about.”

University of Ottawa law professor Jamie Liew asked how one decides whether something “should” be disclosed. “How do you determine what is ‘private,’ and what should be deemed as ‘public’ information to be disclosing?”

Pratte will argue that, at the time she applied in 2004, Justice Douglas should have disclosed that: graphic sexual photos of her had been available on the Internet; that her husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, tried to use the photos to “entice” his then-client Alex Chapman (who later complained of harassment to the law society and the judicial council) to have sex with her; and that some or all of that information was “widely known” in Manitoba’s legal community and was relevant to the assessment of her application.

Justice Douglas has responded that the JAC knew of the matter, delved into it, and she considered the issue closed by that time.

She says she responded “no” on the application because she did nothing wrong — ​​the wrongdoer was her husband, who admits grossly betraying her trust by posting the photos, and then sending them to his client, without her knowledge and consent.

The judge denies that she participated in her husband’s admitted sexual harassment of Chapman; that she deliberately changed a relevant diary entry and misled independent counsel about it; and that the nude photos so undermine her image as a judge that she can no longer do her job and should be removed from the bench.

“To say the public interest means you have to fire the exploited woman, the one betrayed and abused at the hands of unscrupulous men, cannot be right,” Block told the inquiry.

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