Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"... a whopping total of $6,400 ... " and "... while in mid-breakdown ..." Thrown under the bus?

Christie Blatchford: Justice Lori Douglas's real sin seems to have been creating awkwardness for her fellow judges

Christie Blatchford
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
What an absolutely astonishing story it is that broke Tuesday about Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas — that her own chief justice, Glenn Joyal, has complained to the Canadian Judicial Council about some of her expense claims.

Since Judge Joyal isn’t the person who signs off on or approves other judges’ expenses, and since most of Judge Douglas’s claims were pre-approved by the body that actually does have that authority, the story raises more questions about the fellow doing the complaining than it does about Judge Douglas.

How is it, for heaven’s sakes, that Judge Joyal even knew about what one of the judges on his court was submitting in claims to a third party?

At issue, it is worth noting, is a whopping total of $6,400 worth of medical claims, 75% of which were pre-approved by the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs before being submitted, and four economy fare trips to Toronto for Judge Douglas to consult her lawyer, Sheila Block.

The expenses were all approved by the Commissioner over the course of the almost four years of the CJC proceedings against Judge Douglas, and the medical claims, Ms. Block says, were directly related for prescribed therapies for problems resulting from the stress of the inquiry.

In fact, Ms. Block says that when Judge Joyal first raised questions, Judge Douglas contacted the Commissioner directly to see if he now had concerns about the expenses he’d previously OK’d, and offered to repay any if he had retrospective concerns. He didn’t.

(As a bit of background, the commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, among other things, provides about 1,000 federally appointed judges with administrative services; it also funds and provides services and staff to the CJC, the federal body that reviews complaints against those judges. The CJC Tuesday confirmed it has received Judge Joyal’s complaint and passed it on for review.)

Judge Douglas, of course, is already beleaguered.

She’s the woman whose lawyer husband Jack King, about a decade ago while in mid-breakdown, posted explicit pictures of her on a hard-core website without her consent or knowledge and then tried to interest a former client of his, Alex Chapman, into a tryst.

In 2003, Mr. Chapman proceeded to extract $25,000 in hush money from Mr. King, with predictable results.

Seven years later, feeling newly aggrieved, Mr. Chapman tore up his confidentiality agreement, went public to the CBC with copies of emails from Mr. King and the pictures he was to have destroyed, and filed complaints with the CJC.

The CJC appointed an inquiry committee, which held hearings in Winnipeg last summer before the entire process went roaring smartly off the rails amid the resignation of independent counsel Guy Pratte and allegations of bias against the panel.

It was a gong show, by any measure, with the inquiry committee specifically and the CJC generally handling the entire matter with such grotesque clumsiness their collective ability to successfully pull off the proverbial one-car funeral is in grave doubt.

The hearings are on hold pending a review of whether indeed the CJC panel is biased against Judge Douglas.
(As someone who was at the hearings every day, I vote yes.)
"The hearings are on hold pending a review of whether indeed the CJC panel is biased against Judge Douglas. (As someone who was at the hearings every day, I vote yes.)"
The new wrinkle of the complaint by Judge Joyal suggests that there are those on the bench who wish Lori Douglas would just go quietly into the good night.

She has had the temerity not to resign and in fact to hire, in Ms. Block, a pistol of a lawyer to fight for her vigorously.

Though she agreed to stop hearing cases and sitting in court in September of 2010, Judge Douglas has continued to draw her salary (according to the Judicial Affairs website, her salary this year as an associate chief justice is $324,100) and file for modest expenses.

(This is just as it should be too. The only guarantee of judicial independence is that a judge can be removed only for cause.)

And Judge Douglas has always denied the allegations against her — chiefly, that she participated in her husband’s alleged sexual harassment of Mr. Chapman (who it turns out at one point had a large lewd online life and is hardly the delicate fellow he claimed) and that she’d failed to disclose this in her application for the bench.

In fact, as testimony at the stalled hearings revealed, the chair of the appointments committee testified he knew all about the mess and he said he told the other members.

Though Judge Douglas didn’t ever agree that those pictures should in any way be made public, she posed for them, for her husband, in the confines, she believed, of their marriage and bedroom. That makes her, I suppose, an undeniably sexual being.

And that, it appears, is her real sin. Good grief, she may have caused awkwardness for her brother and sister judges, and her boss Joyal; under the bus she must go.
Shame on them all.

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