OTTAWA -- New hearings to determine whether Manitoba Justice Lori Douglas is fit to sit on the bench have been scheduled for the fall, the Canadian Judicial Council announced Tuesday. The hearings come four years after Douglas was first accused of sexual harassment by a former client of her husband, lawyer Jack King, and two years after the first hearings were scrapped under accusations of bias against Douglas by the panel of judges and lawyers deciding her fate.
They also come under a cloud of confusion as to how exactly the case can proceed now that King has died and the accuser, Alexander Chapman, has moved to Trinidad.
CJC director Norman Sabourin said lawyers for Douglas are working with the new panel and the independent council to figure out how to handle King's testimony. He testified in the first hearings but died in April of cancer. Sabourin said if the various parties can't agree how to handle that situation, it will be dealt with in preliminary hearings scheduled for October.
The inquiry has been dragging under the weight of numerous court challenges, resignations and ill will between various parties. Douglas's lawyers wanted the whole thing quashed by a federal court. The original independent lawyer hired to present the case quit in 2012. In letters released recently, the lawyer's resignation came because he felt he was not being allowed to operate independently.
The five-member panel also resigned.
A new independent council was appointed, as well as a new, three-member panel to hear the case.
Douglas has been on paid leave from the bench since August 2010.
The accusations in question stem from an incident in 2004 in which King attempted to get Chapman to have sex with Douglas, including sending Chapman nude photos of her. King's law firm paid Chapman a $25,000 settlement for the matter. King was chastised by the Manitoba Law Society for it in 2011.
Douglas was appointed to the bench in 2006 and testimony at the first hearings said she disclosed the matter to the committee reviewing her application for the bench.