Thursday, December 11, 2014

Splitting hairs and playing semantics down at the Canadian Judicial Council

Good Day Readers:

In the letter cited below, is the Canadian Judicial Council's Senior Legal Counsel/Executive Director Norman Sabourin being inadvertently a tad disingenuous? You be the judge and jury in the court of public opinion..

In paragraph two it states:

The Douglas Inquiry raised a number of difficult, and sometimes novel, issues. However, the Inquiry was never instituted to determine if a judge's ability to adjudicate impartiality has been affected because of "her choice to engage in private, consensual sexual expression.

Yet if you read the original 4-count allegation contained in the CJC's Notice of allegations issued May 29, 2012 Count 3 states:

Alleged Incapacity as a Result of the Public Availability of the photos

Since 2002, photos of a sexual nature of ACJ Douglas (including alterations thereof) have been (and continue to be) available on the internet from time to time. These photos could be seen as inherently contrary to the image and concept of integrity of the judiciary, such that the confidence of individuals appearing before the judge, or of the public in its justice system could be undermined.

Is it not reasonable to your average layperson, taxpaying six pack Joe (or Jane) "Alleged Incapacity" could reasonably refer to Lori Douglas' ability to carry out her duties (impartially evaluate evidence and hand down informed decisions) that maintain the public's confidence (such as it is), in the judicial system? The two occurences are not mutually exclusive as Monsieur Sabourin would have you believe they are commingled and, therefore, cannot be separated.

Case rested. Decision: Norman Sabourin found guilty of splitting hairs and engaging in semantics!

Clare L. Pieuk
CJC defends actions taken in Douglas Inquiry

By Mia Rabson
Thursday, January 11, 2014
Norman Sabourin Executive Director and Senior General Counsel of the Canadian Judicial Council. (Trevor Hagan/Winnipeg Free Press Files)

OTTAWA -- The Canadian Judicial Council has fired back at accusations the public inquiry investigating Manitoba Judge Lori Douglas's fitness to remain on the bench was callous and irrational.

CJC executive director Norman Sabourin responded Wednesday to a letter signed last week by nearly 400 lawyers, law professors and law students that sought an apology from the CJC for humiliating Douglas and forcing her to endure a public trial when she herself was a victim.

"The Douglas inquiry has raised a number of difficult, and sometimes novel, issues," Sabourin wrote to Esther Mendelsohn, a second-year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, who spearheaded the letter. "However, the inquiry was never instituted to determine if a judge's ability to adjudicate impartially has been affected because of "her choice to engage in private, consensual sexual expression."

Douglas, on paid leave from her role as associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, family division, was accused in 2010 of sexual harassment by a former client of her husband, lawyer Jack King.

That accusation involved King giving his client, Alexander Chapman, nude photographs of Douglas, and trying to convince him to have sex with Douglas while King watched.

Ultimately, the inquiry process determined there was no evidence for the harassment allegation against Douglas. (King, who died of cancer earlier this year, was reprimanded and fined for professional misconduct by the Law Society of Manitoba in 2011.) However the CJC inquiry continued, and hearings that were to have taken place last month were to look at three things, Sabourin wrote. The hearings were cancelled when Douglas announced her retirement plans.

The first was whether Douglas was candid about the Chapman situation when she applied to become a judge. The second was whether she altered her personal diary regarding the situation. And the third was whether the presence of nude photographs of her on the Internet undermines confidence in her as a judge.

Sabourin said he was particularly troubled by the accusations of impropriety made against Suzanne C¥té, who was the independent counsel hired by the CJC to present the facts of the case at the public inquiry.

The letter was critical of C¥té for insisting the inquiry panel had to see the actual photographs, saying it was unnecessary and would have re-victimized Douglas, who had not given permission to her husband to have those photos posted online or shared with anyone else.

Sabourin rejected any suggestion C¥té had done anything wrong.

"She discharged her duty, as she was required to do, in accordance with council's bylaws and policies. There is no basis to suggest she acted other than in the proper fulfilment of that mandate."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2014 A5


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