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Douglas inquiry victimizing a victim: lawyer

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Sexual harassment allegations and the knowledge nude photos of her have been on the Internet have taken a toll on one of the province's top judges.

Sheila Block, associate chief Justice Lori Douglas' lawyer, said while the judge is "putting on a brave front" that's not the whole story.

"I will ask you to hear in camera the physical, mental, emotional toll caused her to hit a low point in February this year. She felt abandoned by everything she believed in."

Block argued the entire process is continuing to victimize a victim.

"Her husband betrayed her, violated her privacy and breached the most fundamental and intimate marital trust -- exposing their sexual relations," she said.

"What are now notorious facts came as a complete and devastating shock... This was for her an unimaginable betrayal."

Alex Chapman claims he was sexually harassed by one of the province's top judges when she was a lawyer. Associate chief Justice Lori Douglas claims she was an innocent victim who was betrayed by her husband, lawyer Jack King.

These are the two sides that will be examined by an inquiry panel of the Canadian Judicial Council with some of the country's top judges.

Guy Pratte, the inquiry's independent counsel, said during his opening statement today that he will present all the evidence as impartially as he can.

"This process has not been, is not, and will not become...a witch hunt or a whitewash," he said.

"While Justice Douglas's private life is not on trial, there is no denying that as a result of the unusual circumstances of this case we will have to delve into some very private aspects of her private life."

The man at the centre of a sexual harassment complaint against one of the province's top judges can have a lawyer represent him at an inquiry.

But Chief Justice Catherine Fraser said today Alex Chapman's participation will be a "limited right."

Fraser said Chapman will be funded for one lawyer and can question associate chief justice Lori Douglas and her husband lawyer Jack King.

As well, Fraser said Chapman's lawyer also can give a final address to the inquiry panel of the Canadian Judicial Council.

Chapman originally brought a complaint against Douglas, which led to the hearing.

Chapman claims Douglas's husband showed him sexually explicit photos of her and asked him to have sex with her. But Douglas has said she did nothing wrong and her husband acted without her knowledge.

The inquiry committee will determine whether Douglas, who is the associate chief justice of the family division of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, has a future as a judge.

Douglas has been on leave since 2010.

The allegations being examined by the Canadian Judicial Council include that Douglas failed to disclose all relevant information when she was being considered for the bench, that she and her husband -- lawyer Jack King -- sexually harassed one of his clients, pressuring the client to have sex with her, and that she can no longer function as a judge because of the public availability of the nude photos.

In a recent filing with the Canadian Judicial Council, Douglas denied the allegations, stating she was victimized by her husband's actions, that she had no dealings with Chapman, and that the entire Manitoba legal community was aware of the sordid affair before she was appointed to the bench.

Fraser said she wanted to stress the inquiry panel hasn't lost confidence in the role of an independent counsel in the inquiry process.

The decision means the inquiry will be put over until next month to allow Chapman's lawyer time to prepare.

The inquiry has been adjourned until July 16.

History

Updated on Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 11:11 AM CDT: Adds more background on events leading to inquiry

2:10 PM: Updates with comments from inquiry's independent counsel

4:52 PM: updates with quotes from Block

5:14 PM: Fraser said she wanted to stress the inquiry panel has NOT lost confidence in the role of an independent counsel in the inquiry process. Incorrect information appeared in a previous version of this story.

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