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Judge's expenses questioned

Chief justice files complaint about Douglas; therapies pre-approved: lawyer

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Embattled judge Lori Douglas is now the focus of a second complaint against her -- this one from her boss.

It was confirmed Tuesday Chief Justice Glenn Joyal filed a complaint in the late spring to the Canadian Judical Council (CJC) concerning about $6,400 in expenses Douglas filed after he had relieved her of her duties pending the outcome of sexual harassment complaint made against her three years ago.

The CJC said in a statement Joyal's complaint included questions about the use of a "representational allowance" by Douglas. It is now being reviewed by the vice-chairperson of the judicial conduct committee.

What's unclear in Joyal's complaint is how he obtained Douglas' expense documents and why he proceeded with it when he had been told her expenses had been pre-approved.

Douglas' lawyer Sheila Block said the expenses had been approved by the commissioner for federal judicial affairs, an independent office that provides personnel services to all federally appointed judges, including Joyal.

"The complaint is without merit," Block said in the statement also released Tuesday. "The chief justice (Joyal) has no role in or access to another judge's expenses. It is entirely a matter between the judge and the commissioner for federal judicial affairs."

Block said the expenses in question were for medically prescribed therapies over four years, totaling $6,400, plus four economy fare trips to Toronto to see her counsel acting in the CJC proceedings.

"All expenses are related to the consequences of the CJC proceedings brought against Douglas," she said.

"The $6,400 for medically prescribed treatments related directly to the stress of the CJC proceedings, including the distribution to her peers of intimate pictures of the judge. This distribution, which has caused great stress, was against her will and over her vigorous objection to the CJC.

"All of the expenses were approved on proper documentation."

Douglas is at the centre of a five-member panel CJC hearing to determine if she should be permanently removed from the bench.

The case started three years ago when Alex Chapman filed a complaint with the CJC accusing Douglas of sexual harassment. Chapman alleged her husband, lawyer Jack King, sent him nude photos of Douglas and wanted Chapman to have sex with her. At the time, King was representing Chapman in a divorce case. King has admitted to giving Chapman sexually explicit photographs of his wife that were posted on the Internet -- all without his wife's consent -- and to paying Chapman $25,000 to settle the complaint.

When the complaint against Douglas first surfaced in July 2010, Douglas was assigned administrative duties in the family division of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench.

She was relieved of those duties in Feb. 2011 shortly after Joyal was appointed chief justice. She collects a full salary of more than $315,000 annually.

The disciplinary hearing is now on indefinite hold after a Federal Court judge ruled last month that continuing the highly charged hearings would compound the irreparable harm to her reputation and career.

Douglas has alleged the CJC panel is biased because it allowed improper and adversarial cross-examination of her husband which revealed private details about their sex life. Douglas is also alleging bias because the CJC's panel refused to allow Douglas's lawyer to cross-examine complainant Chapman about his credibility.

It's possible the matter will end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Block also said in her statement that when the issue was first raised by Joyal -- it's believed he filed the complaint in late May -- Douglas contacted the commissioner directly to see whether he now had concerns about the expenses previously approved.

She also volunteered to repay any expenses about which he might have a retrospective concern, Block said. "The commissioner said that none of the expenses needed to be repaid. They had all been submitted under existing policies of the commissioner's office and had been properly approved and reimbursed accordingly."

Joyal was informed of this before he filed his complaint, Block added.

Word of Joyal's complaint was leaked in early July by a unknown source using an untraceable email "remailer" service.

Norman Sabourin, executive director of the CJC, said at the time he could not confirm or deny Joyal's complaint. "We don't comment on complaints unless they are in the public domain," Sabourin said. "The reason for that is because we know the majority of complaints are unfounded. Many are in fact frivolous and vexatious."

A spokeswoman for Joyal said in an email concerns or questions of an ethical nature as raised by a chief justice concerning another judge's conduct may be referred to the CJC for consideration, in particular concerns raised over the use of public funds.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2013 B1

History

Updated on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 6:30 AM CDT: adds link to statement from Sheila Block

August 22, 2013 at 9:08 AM: corrects typo

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