Lawyer wants new rules for inquiry into Manitoba judge's nude photos
Published Monday, August 20, 2012 5:55PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 20, 2012 8:01PM EDT
WINNIPEG -- Another round of legal wrangling has erupted that could derail the inquiry into a Manitoba judge whose nude photos appeared on the Internet.
Lori Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, filed an application Monday with the Federal Court of Canada to quash the inquiry due to a "reasonable apprehension of bias".
Block alleges that George Macintosh, the lawyer who has been asking questions on behalf of the five-member committee overseeing the inquiry, has engaged in "aggressive and argumentative questions, sexist and insulting references, misstatements and distortions of the evidence and attacks on (Douglas's) character and credibility".
Guy Pratte, the independent lawyer leading the inquiry, filed a similar but separate motion Monday.
He did not ask the Federal Court to end the inquiry, but only to prevent Macintosh from asking any more questions and strike his previous questions from the record.
Pratte said the inquiry committee, which includes the chief justices of Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, has over-stepped its bounds by becoming involved in a hearing while also presiding over it.
"The procedure adopted by the committee is beyond its jurisdiction, violates the (Canadian Judicial Council) bylaws and policies and ... is inconsistent with the principles of fairness by which the committee is legally bound," Pratte wrote.
The inquiry committee is examining whether Douglas should be removed from the bench. Douglas is an associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, heading up the family court division.
The inquiry is examining a controversy that began when Douglas's husband, Jack King, sexually harassed a client.
In 2003, when Douglas and King were family law lawyers at the same firm, King uploaded sexually explicit photos of Douglas on a website dedicated to interracial sex. Some showed her in bondage gear or performing sex acts. He also emailed photos to a client named Alexander Chapman and asked him to have sex with Douglas.
Chapman complained to the law firm and King settled the matter within weeks by paying Chapman $25,000 to return all the photos and to never discuss the matter.
Chapman broke that deal in 2010 and complained to the judicial council, insisting Douglas was part of the sexual harassment.
Among the allegations before the inquiry is that Douglas did not disclose the matter when she applied to be a judge. She applied three times before finally being accepted in 2005.
The inquiry is also examining whether the very existence of the photos precludes Douglas from continuing in her job.
Douglas has said all along that her husband acted without her knowledge, and that she should not be punished for her husband's misdeeds.
Macintosh grilled Douglas's husband last month, suggesting it was impossible that Douglas never knew about the nude photos. With rapid-fire questions, he repeatedly asked King how could Douglas not be alarmed that he was snapping more than 100 pictures of her over the years, with digital, film and instant cameras.
Block objected to Macintosh's questions and asked the committee to end the inquiry. The committee rejected that idea and said Macintosh needed to ask questions to get to the truth.
It's not clear when Block or Pratte's applications to the Federal Court might be heard. The inquiry itself is on a break. It was originally scheduled to finish hearing evidence last month, but most witnesses have yet to testify. The committee had talked about resuming hearings in the fall, although no firm dates have been set.
The Canadian Judicial Council has only held inquiries into judges nine times in 40 years. It has only once recommended that a judge be removed.
In 2009, the council recommended to the federal government that Paul Cosgrove be removed as a justice of the Ontario Superior Court due to incompetence and abuse of his powers. Cosgrove resigned before the federal government could make its decision.