Friday, July 11, 2014

Another Douglas Inquiry in the making?

Judge Michel Girouard

Good Day Readers:

Like the Douglas Inquiry that's hopelessly bogged down in legal wrangling will this be another one?

Clare L. Pieuk
Judge accused of buying cocaine as a lawyer attempts to hault disciplinary procedure before hearings even begin

Graeme Hamilton
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Judge Michel Girouard is trying to stop cocaine allegations before hearings even begin.

MONTREAL — A Quebec Superior Court judge facing possible removal from the bench over allegations he bought cocaine during his days as a lawyer has gone to court in an attempt to halt a disciplinary procedure before hearings are even held.In an application for judicial review filed with Federal Court, Justice Michel Girouard is challenging the Canadian Judicial Council’s powers to investigate complaints against judges.
Among other arguments, Judge Girouard is saying the council has no business examining his behaviour when he was practising law before his 2010 appointment to the bench. “Only the provincial authority has the jurisdiction to investigate and draw conclusions on the conduct of a lawyer,” his lawyers write in the application.
The Council, whose members include Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and all superior court chief and associate chief justices, announced in February that it would hold a public inquiry into Judge Girouard’s conduct.

The allegations against Judge Girouard surfaced following a major 2010 police operation targeting organized crime in Quebec’s northwestern Abitibi region. According to the court documents, a drug dealer turned informant told police that Judge Girouard, who practiced law in Val D’Or, Que., purchased cocaine from him. The informant gave conflicting accounts of when the purchases stopped, saying it was in either 1989 or 1991, the documents say.
Quebec’s director of public prosecutions brought the allegations to the attention of Chief Justice François Rolland of Quebec Superior Court, who filed a complaint with the judicial council.
Judge Girouard has denied the allegations. In his application for judicial review, his lawyers say the judicial council’s review panel “systematically set aside” Judge Girouard’s version of events and retained “only the most unfavourable elements.” The evidence against Justice Girouard remains under seal, and he has requested that a Federal Court hearing scheduled for November be held behind closed doors.
The informant also identified another judge, Marc Grimard of Quebec Court, as a client during his days as a lawyer. Judge Grimard was briefly removed from his duties as a judge but began hearing cases again in June 2013.
Judge Girouard argues that this is evidence of the unfairness of the Canadian Judicial Council’s procedures. “The informant on whose word this entire inquiry rests made similar allegations regarding a lawyer who had become a provincial judge. It appears these allegation so far have led to nothing,” the application states. (Provincially appointed judges are subject to a separate disciplinary process administered by Quebec’s Conseil de la magistrature.)
The informant on whose word this entire inquiry rests made similar allegations regarding a lawyer who had become a provincial judge. It appears these allegation so far have led to nothing
Judge Girouard’s court action is a multi-pronged attack on the Canadian Judicial Council, arguing its procedures threaten “judicial independence enshrined in the Constitution.” It questions the legality of the council’s procedures because they were not properly registered with the Privy Council. And it says the review panels that decide whether a public inquiry should be held do not operate under any established rules of evidence.
It also challenges the council’s jurisdiction over the matter because the alleged misconduct occurred while he was a lawyer, and disciplining the behaviour of lawyers is a provincial jurisdiction.
In a motion to have Judge Girouard’s application dismissed, the Attorney General of Canada says it would be premature for the court to intervene. The judge’s complaints can be raised with the inquiry committee, as has happened in previous cases, it argues.
Intervening at this stage, the Attorney General continues, runs counter to the wishes of Parliament, which assigned the judicial council the role of overseeing the integrity of the judiciary.
The challenge comes at a time when the judicial council is under increasing scrutiny following its handling of a complaint against Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Lori Douglas. An inquiry into Judge Douglas’s conduct, stemming from nude photos of her posted to the Internet by her husband, led to accusations of bias on the part of the committee overseeing the inquiry. The committee and the independent counsel leading the inquiry stepped down, and Judge Douglas is asking the Federal Court of Appeal to halt the inquiry.
In March, the judicial council announced a review of its procedures and sought public input on what it needs to do to “keep pace with the public’s evolving expectations of fairness, efficiency and transparency in the process.” The results of the review have not yet been published.


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