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Clip appeals of judicial council work

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Both Manitoba Justice Lori Douglas, whose husband Jack King posted nude photos of her on the Internet and solicited a client to have sex with her, and the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), which struck an inquiry panel to look into her conduct, have moved their dispute up yet another rung of the judicial ladder.

Their no-end-in-sight conflict begs for changes to the Judges Act, the legislation that's spawned multiplying legal manoeuvres.

Both sides have appealed a Federal Court of Canada ruling, which gave each a partial victory, to that court's appellate division.

Justice Douglas succeeded on the finding that the courts can review and overturn rulings of an inquiry panel. The CJC, however, won on the finding that there's no "institutional" bias against her due to how panels are structured.

Their cross-appeals will further delay a successor inquiry panel (the original panel resigned last fall) commencing its hearings into Justice Douglas' involvement. The twin appeals likely won't be heard for many months, and the rendering of a Federal Court of Appeal decision may take as long again.

The Douglas inquiry has already dragged on 31/2 years without even hearing all the evidence and the death of Mr. King may further complicate the issues at hand.

CJC executive director Norman Sabourin announced last week the stalled hearings might resume this summer, despite the pending appeals. Mr. Sabourin is guilty of wishful thinking.

It's likely Judge Douglas will move, likely successfully, to obtain an order in the Federal Court of Appeal staying resumption of inquiry panel proceedings until the court rules on her appeal. She previously obtained a similar order in the Federal Court's trial division.

It's equally likely the CJC doesn't truly want the inquiry panel to resume without a ruling as to whether the panel's workings are reviewable by the courts. And either side, after a ruling is issued on their appeals, may well kick the dispute further upstairs, via appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Judicial review of a CJC inquiry panel, as an administrative tribunal, is proper. However, this inquiry's endlessly spiralling appeals to successive levels of courts, is not.

If and when the Douglas inquiry wraps up, the CJC's enabling legislation should be amended to limit the right of judicial review to one level of superior court.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 2, 2014 A10

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