Friday, November 09, 2012

The Douglas Inquiry: A classic, textbook case study of "going haywire!"

Dear Mr. Pieuk:

I found this National Post editorial to which I refer below:

It's from July 2011 or about a year after Alex Chapman filed his complaint. Notice how little the Canadian Judicial Council has accomplished in that year.

It would appear from much of the commentary up to that time many people thought hat she should resign and I suspect up to a certain point, her resignation would have sufficed to shut down any further deliberation. But I think (or at least hope) that is much less likely now because there are some other questions about those who facilitated her appointment.

What are the possible ultimate outcomes? I would guess that it's now out of the question that she will even return to actively hearing cases. And that would mean that at some point she will resign because taking the process of removal all the way to a joint decision of the Hous of Commons and the Senate would be (as I know) unprecedented.

Chris J. Budgell

Dear Mr. Budgell:

Thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog.

When no less than 16 lawyers meet with a Federal Court of Canada Judge to discuss the future direction of the Douglas Inquiry as happened recently (October 30 of this year), you it's gone haywire.

Wouldn't that be ironic Lori Douglas resigns after so much taxpayer money has been spent. Of course, the Canadian Judicial Council won't tell the public how much because they are not required - yet another flaw in the process.

Completely agree even if Ms Douglas were to resign, unlikely given she has pushed it this far, the Inquiry should continue to completion because of all the screw up some of which are not owned by her. For this to have happened you know the entire process by which federal Judges are selected is buggered top down bottom up.

Clare L. Pieuk
National Post Editorial Board: A question of judgment
Thursday, July 7, 2011

No one likes to see a good man — or woman — fall from grace. But in the case of Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, it is difficult to be sympathetic.

In 2010, Judge Douglas and her husband, lawyer Jack King, were sued by Alex Chapman, one of Mr. King’s former clients. In 2003, while representing Mr. Chapman in a divorce case, Mr. King solicited him to have three-way sex with the couple. Mr. King showed Mr. Chapman approximately thirty naked pictures of Judge Douglas, some in bondage gear, which had been posted to a porn website without her knowledge.

Mr. Chapman did not engage in any sexual activity; he felt revolted at the proposition and experienced mental distress. Mr. Chapman changed lawyers, and then signed a contract with Mr. King and his firm, promising his silence about the matter, in exchange for $25,000. Seven years later, he broke the deal, claiming that he could no longer live with the pain caused by the incident and the fear that it might adversely affect him in another civil proceeding related to his divorce.

Judge Douglas subsequently stepped aside, pending a decision by the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), as to whether confidence in her judgeship had been compromised. Mr. King was also the subject of a complaint to the Manitoba Law Society. This week, the CJC ruled that Judge Douglas’s case warranted a public inquiry. She is said to be “devastated” by the decision.

The critics, even on the front page of this newspaper, have called this ruling “priggish” and claimed that Judge Douglas is being subjected to a sexual double standard, which judges women’s behaviour more harshly than men’s. But this case is not about different standards for men and women. Rather, it turns on the higher standard to which judges are held, due to their position in society.

Judges are called upon to apply the laws of the land, ensuring equal treatment and justice for all who come before them. In family court matters, such as those adjudicated by Judge Douglas, they decide thorny questions of child custody, in which the moral conduct of parents can become an issue. Litigants expect that the person who will decide their fate is unbiased, displays sound judgment and is of unblemished character.

When any of these elements come into question, confidence in the judiciary, and the rule of law itself, is undermined.

Judge Douglas no doubt was aware of these realities before she became a judge — and if she wasn’t, then that raises a serious red flag about her own judgment. She thought it perfectly acceptable to sit in judgment of others when she had a giant and potentially deadly skeleton in her closet, one which could expose her to blackmail, or worse. Did it never occur to her that despite Mr. Chapman’s pledge of silence, the incident might be made public either intentionally or accidentally?

The CJC reports that Judge Douglas apparently did disclose details of her situation to the panel charged with reviewing her application for the bench. It would be useful for the public inquiry to also review that panel’s decision and the standards they applied in determining her fitness to serve as a judge.

It would be simple to say that people’s public and private lives should be kept separate, but it would also be naïve, especially when one captures one’s private practices on film. Just like the drunken college grad, whose friends post a lewd picture of him on Facebook and then loses a job opportunity when his potential employer sees it, Judge Douglas got caught in a mess of her own making. Compromising images, even when within one’s control, or the control of a loved one or friend, always have the possibility of leaking. And when they do, there is no one to blame but oneself, for allowing them to be taken in the first place. Her case is unfortunate, but a lesson to anyone aspiring to hold the public trust.


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