Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/1/2011 (3555 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- A federal judicial review agency has deemed a sexual harassment complaint against Manitoba judge Lori Douglas worthy of a full investigation by a panel of five judges.
In an announcement Wednesday, the Canadian Judicial Council said a review by Alberta Chief Justice Neil Wittman determined the complaint filed by Alex Chapman "warrants further consideration."
The judicial council was careful to note Wittman's decision to refer it to the panel does not mean he drew any conclusions about the merits of the complaint against the associate chief justice of Manitoba Court of Queen Bench's family division.
"These are allegations only: No conclusions have been drawn, so far, about them," the written announcement says.
The five judges -- all members of the council -- will decide if the complaint has any merit and determine what steps to take next. That could include dismissing the complaint or ordering Douglas to apologize. In extreme circumstances, the panel can refer the matter to a public inquiry where it will be determined whether the judge should be removed from the bench.
A public inquiry has only been called four times in the last 40 years and only once has the inquiry resulted in the removal of a judge. One other judge stepped down before he could be removed.
Douglas voluntarily removed herself from the bench in late August and has been working in an administrative capacity until the judicial council deals with the complaints against her.
Also on Wednesday, the judicial council announced Wittman rejected a second complaint made against Douglas. That complaint came from a woman who said Douglas should have recused herself from a divorce case because of a personal relationship with the woman's ex-husband. Wittman found there was no evidence to support the allegations, which were based on "speculation, hearsay and assumptions."
Because Douglas is a member of the judicial council, Wittman's decision not to proceed was reviewed by an independent lawyer. She agreed with his assessment.
The second complaint, filed days after Chapman revealed details about Douglas's private sexual activities, had justice officials in Manitoba worried the floodgates would open to dozens of people who feel they were wronged in Douglas's court.
Chapman's complaint stems from events in 2003 when he was a client of Douglas's husband, Winnipeg divorce lawyer Jack King. Chapman said King tried to coerce him into having sex with Douglas and sent him explicit nude photographs of her. Chapman alleges Douglas was an active and willing participant in her husband's activities.
However, King has claimed, through his lawyer, Douglas may not have even been aware of his attempts to solicit other men to have sex with her or the fact he had distributed and posted nude photos of her.
The Manitoba Law Society filed three charges of professional misconduct against King in November. A hearing on the charges is pending.
Chapman said Wednesday he is happy his complaint is moving forward but is upset he didn't get any personal notice from the judicial council about the decision.
Chapman is also concerned he hasn't had responses to his numerous emails and phone calls seeking information about the case. He is also irked because he hasn't been interviewed by anyone from the judicial council.
"It seems they are interested in protecting their own," Chapman said.
Council spokeswoman Johanna Laporte said the council had been in touch with Chapman several times by phone and invited him to provide any and all relevant information to his complaint.
"He did that, we assume," said Laporte.
She said the review by Wittman was not an investigation but was mostly a determination if the complaint was within the mandate of the CJC.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.