A disciplinary hearing into the fate of Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lori Douglas is facing an uncertain future after the entire judicial panel announced their surprise resignation today.
The five-member committee released written reasons for their decision, saying public interest would not be served by continuing to preside over a matter which has been on indefinite hold due to a series of problems and controversies.
Douglas has alleged the hearing by a Canadian Judicial Council panel is biased because the panel allowed improper and adversarial cross-examination of her husband, lawyer Jack King, which revealed private details about their sex life. That occurred back in the summer of 2012 when the committee first convened in Winnipeg for the start of the high-profile hearing.
Douglas has also alleged bias because the CJC's panel refused to allow her lawyer to cross-examine complainant Alex Chapman about his credibility.
In a statement released today, the CJC said they are now reviewing their options.
"Council's mandate and duty is to ensure that the review of allegations against the judge can proceed in accordance with the provisions of the Judges Act and with Council's By-laws in a fair and expeditious manner, in keeping with the public interest," said Norman Sabourin, the CJC's executive director and senior general counsel.
"In due course, another inquiry committee may be appointed in respect of Associate Chief Justice Douglas."
Three years ago, when the scandal first erupted, Chapman filed a complaint with the CJC accusing Douglas of sexual harassment. Chapman alleged 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.
Earlier this summer, Sabourin said he was optimistic the disciplinary hearing would resume by the end of this year.
"To the extent I have anything to do with it, things are going to move quickly," he told the Free Press.
Douglas has been on paid leave from the bench since 2010, pending the outcome of the inquiry.
-with files from Mary Agnes Welch