OTTAWA -- The judicial inquiry that will determine the future of Manitoba Justice Lori Douglas hit another snag Monday with the sudden resignation of the lawyer tasked with presenting the case.
Independent counsel Guy Pratte declined to comment on the reasons for his resignation, which is effective immediately.
However, in July, Pratte threatened to resign if George Macintosh, the lawyer assigned to assist the five-member committee hearing the inquiry, was allowed to continue with an aggressive line of questioning toward some witnesses.
The inquiry is examining the appropriateness of Justice Douglas's actions in the wake of a sex scandal involving her husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, and one of his clients. That client, Alex Chapman, claims King tried to convince him to have sex with Douglas and sent him nude photos of her in 2003 -- two years before Douglas was appointed to the bench. Chapman initially accepted $25,000 to remain silent on the issue, but eventually filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the Canadian Judicial Council. He also filed three civil suits totalling $67 million against Douglas, King and King's former law firm, but two were withdrawn and the suit against King was dismissed by the court.
When King took the stand at the inquiry last month, Macintosh grilled him extensively, suggesting it was impossible Douglas never knew about the nude photos. With rapid-fire questions, he repeatedly asked King how Douglas could not be alarmed he had snapped more than 100 pictures of her over the years, with digital, film and instant cameras.
Pratte had filed a motion in Federal Court last week seeking to prevent Macintosh from asking further questions and to strike all evidence resulting from his questions from the record. In that motion, Pratte argued it is against CJC policy for the committee's lawyer to participate in the hearing.
Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, also objected to Macintosh's questions, calling them aggressive and sexist. Block filed a separate motion in Federal Court last week asking for the entire inquiry to end because of them. Earlier, she had requested the inquiry committee end it, but the committee ruled against her last month.
The CJC is the body charged with policing judicial conduct. It is only the ninth time in CJC history a complaint against a judge has proceeded to a full judicial inquiry.
The five member committee -- three provincial chief justices and two lawyers -- are to decide at the end of the inquiry whether to recommend to Parliament Douglas be removed from the bench.
That has happened just once before, although in another instance a judge stepped down before the recommendation was made.
Douglas was appointed to Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench, family division in May 2005. She was promoted to associate chief justice in Manitoba in June 2009. She has been on leave since the allegations were made public in 2010.
The inquiry began in July but was suspended July 26 when Block raised her first motion to end the inquiry. There is no date set for proceedings to resume.
A CJC spokesman said Monday a new independent counsel will be appointed as soon as possible.