Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And 'Buddy' makes 69 ..... "Dismissed!"

Good Day Readers

Sometimes the judiciary has to be taught some manners.

Clare L. Pieuk
Justice of the Peace who dismissed 68 charges at once faces conduct hearing

Alfred Johnston is accused of behaving with 'impatience" and "a dismissive, arrogant attitude" in that incident and for allegedly "mocking" a self-represented defendant.

Rachel Mendleson, News Reporter
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Toronto Justice of the Peace who threw out 68 charges en masse because the prosecutor was late — by less than two minutes — is now the subject of a formal conduct hearing for “impatience” and “a dismissive, arrogant attitude.”

Justice of the Peace Alfred “Bud” Johnston’s decision in December 2012 to toss an entire court docket after just 71 seconds “compromised the dignity and decorum of the courtroom,” according to the Notice of Hearing prepared by the Justices of the Peace Review Council.

In another incident, Johnston treated a courier driver defending himself against Highway Traffic Act charges in a “mocking sarcastic manner,” and “failed to understand or ignored” his duty to give him a fair hearing, resulting in a “possible miscarriage of justice,” the Notice of Hearing alleges.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Justice said Johnston declined to comment on the conduct hearing, which is a relatively rare occurrence in Ontario. Johnston’s lawyer, Peter Brauti, said he could not discuss the matter until it comes before the Review Council.

The Review Council is mandated under provincial legislation to investigate complaints against Justices of the Peace. The Council can impose sanctions that range from a warning to suspension without pay, and can recommend to the Attorney General that a Justice of the Peace be removed from office.

Only five hearings have been completed since 2010.

The City of Toronto successfully appealed Johnston’s mass dismissal of dozens of charges, mostly related to the Highway Traffic Act violations, last year. A judge concluded the move was “draconian” and “intemperate.”

As Johnston entered the courtroom that day, the prosecutor, who was checking in defendants in the hallway outside the courtroom, saw the Justice of the Peace look at him, the notice of hearing alleges.

As a transcript of the brief court session revealed, Johnston refused to allow someone to retrieve the prosecutor, and relied on a section of the Provincial Offences Act that gives justices the power to dismiss charges if a prosecutor does not appear.

(The city’s legal department, which pursued the appeal on a point of law, immediately withdrew the cases that were reinstated.)

“His Worship’s actions demonstrated a dismissive, arrogant attitude, impatience towards a defendant and towards a prosecutor, and a lack of judicial respect that compromised the rights of the defendants, the prosecutor and witnesses to be heard and also compromised the dignity and decorum of the courtroom,” the Notice of Hearing alleges.

The other incident involved a delivery driver who was defending himself against a charge for driving with a hand-held communication device in November 2012.

When the defendant struggled to produce the correct case name to argue a motion under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Johnston “responded in a mocking sarcastic manner, including mocking the defendant’s incorrect pronunciation of the case,” the Notice of Hearing states.

“I know you’re not a lawyer, sir, and these arguments are usually done by professionals,” Johnston told the defendant. “We don’t have people stand up trying to argue something they know very little about and can’t even refer to the leading cases and don’t even know what they’re arguing for sure.”

At that time, there was an exemption in the Highway Traffic Act that allowed courier drivers to drive while holding or using a two-way radio.

The driver couldn’t remember the relevant section of the legislation, but said he had a copy in his car.

However, Johnston wouldn’t let him retrieve it, “effectively denying him the opportunity to make full answer and defence,” according to the notice of hearing.

Dates for the public hearing will be set on May 20.


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