Constitutional Law

Legal Ethics Trial of Canadian Judge Could Be Doomed By 'Incontestable' Bias of Tribunal Counsel


A controversial legal ethics trial concerning a prominent Manitoba judge has taken an unusual turn.

A call Thursday by the judge’s lawyer for the inquiry to be terminated, due to claimed bias on the part of an attorney who is supposed to serve as an impartial advisor to the Canadian Judicial Council, was supported by another tribunal attorney who serves in something of a prosecutorial role, reports the National Post on its Full Comment page.

Attorney Sheila Block, who represents Justice Lori Douglas, said the council should recuse itself and halt the trial, due to the bias that had been displayed against her client by inquiry lawyer George Macintosh. Then senior independent counsel Guy Pratte agreed that the appearance of bias is “incontestable” from the manner in which the inquiry has been conducted, the Post reports.

Pratte said the inquiry could continue if it gets back on course, but warned he could not continue to serve in his role if aggressive questioning of witnesses by Macintosh, outside the bounds of what a lawyer in his position would ordinarily do, isn’t halted. “The ship has to be righted,” Pratte told the tribunal.

However, Block said the appearance of unfairness could require intervention by Parliament, because judges are supposed to be able to serve without being subjected to political pressure.

“This has extremely serious ramifications,” she said, telling the inquiry panel “This process cannot continue.”

The article doesn’t include any comment by Macintosh.

A decision is expected Friday on whether the ethics trial can continue.

The ethics probe has been controversial because it seeks potentially to hold Douglas accountable for her husband’s admitted misconduct in posting on the Internet sexual photos that both say she had no knowledge were being publicized. Some also reportedly showed Douglas wearing bondage gear.

While concern has been expressed that Douglas may not have adequately disclosed, before she was appointed to her job, the potential embarrassment to the judiciary the photos posed, critics say she is a victim of her husband’s wrongdoing who is being humiliated for no good reason by the inquiry.

The CBC News and the Edmonton Journal also discuss the latest developments.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer Apologizes to His Wife, a Prominent Judge, for Pressuring Ex-Client to Have Sex with Her”

ABAJournal.com: “Judge Faces Disciplinary Hearing Over Photos Posted by Attorney Husband on the Internet”

Canadian Press: “Husband of Manitoba judge under scrutiny for nude photos says he was stupid”

National Post: “Manitoba judge may have known about online nude photos before harassment claim, inquiry told”

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