Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Inquiry already has pounds of Douglas's flesh

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It's time to put an end to the gong show that is the Canadian Judicial Council's inquiry into the behaviour of Justice Lori Douglas.

What began as an examination of her fitness to serve quickly degenerated into a sleazy look at the personal lives of Douglas and her feckless husband, Jack King. When King divulged the couple never had sex in the mornings, courtroom spectators cleverly deduced this hearing had wandered far astray from its stated purpose.

If anyone believed the train wreck could be righted, Guy Pratte's surprise resignation Monday as the inquiry's independent counsel put that notion to rest.

The stage for Pratte's decision was set last month when the inquiry's counsel, George Macintosh, grilled King and another witness so aggressively the presence of blood splatter in the witness box would have surprised no one.

Pratte and Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, immediately protested Macintosh's bang-on impersonation of a pit bull.

Last week, Pratte filed a motion in the Federal Court of Canada seeking to prevent Macintosh from asking further questions of witnesses. Pratte wanted all evidence resulting from Mackintosh's questions struck from the record. He argued it is against CJC policy for the committee's lawyer to participate in the hearing.

Block also formally objected to Macintosh's questions. She filed her own motion in Federal Court last week asking for an end to the entire inquiry.

Earlier this summer, she asked that the inquiry recuse itself because of a perception of bias. That request was denied.

So this is what the Lori Douglas inquiry has become. The CJC's own independent counsel, the man charged with presenting its case, has walked away.

In a brief email exchange Tuesday, Pratte said: "Thanks for your interest, but I am not in a position to comment."

Sheila Block said her attempts to learn why Pratte resigned have been unsuccessful.

"I've demanded the resignation letter and all the related communication and that's been refused," she said.

Until now, the CJC inquiry members have been transparent in their dealings. A true effort has been made to show the public judges take the job of examining the behaviour of their peers very seriously.

The committee is silent on Pratte's resignation. That's interesting, because there is no client/lawyer privilege at play. Guy Pratte was independent of the inquiry. In theory, he had no client.

Legal sources say Pratte has invested a year in preparing the case. His reputation is exemplary. He would not abandon the case without a very good reason.

Was he silenced by the CJC? Was he forced out? What would cause a respected lawyer to do something that could jettison a judicial inquiry?

A commission spokesperson said a new independent counsel will be appointed. That person would also need to be granted months of preparation time.

Those seeking to humble Lori Douglas for her husband's madness must be satisfied by now. She has been shamed. Those who believe she should not be a family court judge will likely get their wish. If this benighted inquiry folded its tents tomorrow, she'd never get another chance.

Criminal court would be out, too. The knowledge photos of the judge naked are still floating out somewhere on the Internet would preclude the perception of her as fit.

She is, friends say, a shattered woman.

What exactly did Lori Douglas know, do and say? She hasn't had the chance to testify at this ongoing moral inquisition. We may never know, but certainly much of Canada has already judged the judge.

The inquiry is in chaos. Enough. She has been punished, although it has not been proven she did anything wrong.

Save the money. Let all the high-priced lawyers, the chief justices and assorted subordinates get back to real work.

This isn't about justice. It's a blood-letting, primitive and insistent.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2012 B1

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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