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Decision on standing due today

Man accusing high-profile justice of harassment also to get word on expenses

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A man accusing one of the province's top judges of sexual harassment finds out today not only if he'll be granted standing in her disciplinary hearing but also if the federal government will pay for his legal representation.

Alex Chapman originally brought a complaint against Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, which led to the hearing, and he'll learn a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry committee's decision in court today.

The committee is looking into Douglas's conduct to determine if she should retain her status as a justice.

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.

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati argued Chapman needs to have his own lawyer instead of relying on the committee's independent counsel.

"Alex Chapman has a direct and tangential interest in this proceeding," Galati said.

"I'm not impugning the role of the independent counsel, but it doesn't work where you have a complainant and judge saying each is lying.

"If he doesn't get standing then... who out there would ever get standing?"

Galati also asked for funding from the inquiry. He said Chapman has virtually no income since losing his job with an insurance company in 2010.

But Guy Pratte, the committee's independent counsel, and Douglas's lawyer, Molly Reynolds, argued Monday Chapman shouldn't be granted standing, but should remain as one of the committee's witnesses.

"There is no room for a complainant... to complement the job of independent counsel," Pratte said. "He seeks to bring forward no new facts."

Reynolds said the inquiry committee is looking into the conduct of Douglas and she is the only one who could suffer any ramifications out of the hearings, not Chapman.

"To give Mr. Chapman standing would be to utterly change the process," she said.

"It would create an adversarial system... it's an attempt to abuse the CJC process."

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.

She has been on leave since the allegations became known in 2010.

The allegations suggest Douglas failed to disclose all relevant facts when she was being considered for the bench, that she and her husband -- lawyer Jack King -- sexually harassed Chapman, 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 2010, Alex Chapman went public with allegations he was paid $25,000 to keep quiet about images of Douglas he was sent and requests for him to engage in sexual activity with her. The incidents were alleged to have happened while King was representing Chapman in a divorce trial in 2003.

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

Also Monday, the inquiry committee unanimously rejected applications by Cher Hazen and blogger Clare Pieuk, saying neither had a personal interest in the matter and didn't bring any expertise in the matter to the hearing.

Hazen said she wanted to be part of the inquiry because she is worried Douglas's alleged personal behaviour affected her child-custody hearing.

Pieuk argued he should be given standing to represent the public because "if there is no public intervener, is it really a public inquiry?"

But the committee told him as a blogger member of the media he was welcome to sit in the public courtroom, but was not to be granted standing.

On Sunday, the inquiry committee said discs containing nude photos of Douglas and other women will be considered as a separate complaint against the judge.

The inquiry committee said while accepting the discs, their contents will not be made public until the judges on the committee have had a chance to review the photos and decide whether they should be released.

Douglas had objected to the inclusion of the discs in the process.

The committee said the discs are relevant to three of the four allegations against Douglas.

 

-- with files from The Canadian Press

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2012 B1

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