Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Appeal for role in inquiry an insult to true victim

At least blogger's bid was politely dismissed

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Alex Chapman, bloodied but unbowed, had his day in court Monday as his lawyer argued he has a right to legal standing in the Canadian Judicial Council's inquiry into Justice Lori Douglas's future on the bench. The self-proclaimed victim would also like his legal fees covered, thank you very much.

Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati told the inquiry his client Chapman now has a "negative net worth," has been unemployed since merrily breaking a confidentiality agreement in 2010 and has earned only $1,500 in "menial jobs" since publicly reneging on a 2003 deal with Douglas's husband, Jack King.

That sweet arrangement had Chapman cashing a $25,000 cheque in exchange for permanently shutting his yap. Instead, he went public in 2010 with claims King tried to arrange a sexual encounter between the now-blushing Chapman and his missus while acting as the former's divorce lawyer. King sent Chapman photos of Douglas in bondage, apparently to sweeten the deal.

After nursing hurt feelings for seven years, Chapman leaked the nudie shots to the media. He also filed a $67-million lawsuit against the couple and the law firm where they worked.

Greed doesn't always pay. For reneging, Chapman has been ordered to pay back the $25,000 and cover King's legal fees, expected to be in the $10,000 range.

This should have been a footnote to a quickly resolved private matter. But a witch hunt erupted when Chapman leapt from the shadows. Lori Douglas was pilloried for something she didn't do. She didn't send the pictures, didn't know they were being sent and has been humiliated by her husband's actions. Her mistake was trusting her husband.

She has been on leave from her job as associate chief justice of the family division of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench since August 2010.

The CJC launched their inquiry last November. The council's concerns include the couple's alleged sexual harassment of Chapman, Douglas's failure to disclose the issue to the judicial selection committee in 2005, and her ability to serve as a judge, given the existence of the photos.

So there was Alex Chapman in the front row and Rocco Galati arguing the inquiry will devolve into a "he-says-she-says" debate, one that cannot possibly be resolved by the existing independent counsel to the inquiry. He suggested Chapman has a "direct and substantial" interest in the proceedings and should have a voice.

Of course he's got an interest, given it's his greed that got the ball rolling. Galati claimed Chapman's charter rights would be violated if he is not given standing. If he is, Chapman would be allowed to cross-examine witnesses if they make negative statements about him, his lawyer said. In other words, he could cross-examine Lori Douglas, a woman who has made no claims against him but disputes his now-public allegations against her.

Galati sought a three-week delay to prepare a case if his request is granted.

Independent counsel Guy Pratte dismissed Galati's submission. The report of the committee is focused on Lori Douglas, he said, and its report will have nothing to do with Chapman. It cannot assign blame to him, although some of us in the cheap seats think that's a pity. Lori Douglas has the right to counsel at the hearing because it is her behaviour that is under scrutiny.

If Galati was to be believed, Pratte argued, any time you felt your reputation was at stake you could seek intervener status at a hearing.

Galati and Chapman will hear the committee's decision Tuesday.

Thankfully, the Lori Douglas circus was denied an extra ring Monday when a local blogger's request for standing was unanimously dismissed. The blogger, who should learn no worthy sentence begins with the words "I believe it behooves... " proved committee chairwoman Catherine Fraser is possessed of immaculate manners and infinite patience. In a lesser setting, the blogger would have been yanked out of the room with a giant hook.

The committee meets again today. Let's hope it quickly resolves the pillorying of Lori Douglas without any more tomato-tossers trying to join the party.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 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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