Most people would rather have a root canal than be caught up in a court proceeding. Courts and judges are mysterious, scary, and expensive. But imagine appearing before a judge whose photos on the internet, according to reports, depict her nude, with her legs wide open, performing fellatio on a man, urinating on her lawn, or tied up with a dog collar and a chain around her neck.
Yes, that would be Winnipeg’s Madam Justice Lori Douglas, and the scenes described are merely a few of the 150 poses captured by her lawyer husband, Jack King, and posted by him on the world wide web, for all to enjoy.
I have followed Lori Douglas’ public excoriation from the outset and can’t imagine how she expects to carry on as a judge, and why she did not resign in 2010 with some of her dignity intact. I say she is not fit to occupy a judicial position because her shameful situation, whether she is to blame or not, flies in the face of the ethical principles set out by the Canadian Judicial Council, the august body that investigates complaints from the public regarding judges.
Yes, I reject Judge Douglas’ claims that she is a victim. She is not. She has the education and sophistication of a worldly woman who knew when she applied for a judicial position that she would be held to a higher standard of conduct than the pole dancers at Winnipeg’s popular Teaser’s Burlesque Cabaret.
She knew, or ought to have known, that where her personal life intruded on her judicial duties, any complaint about her situation could and would be investigated by her governing body, which has a statutory duty to investigate all complaints.
To the legions that have fallen for her lawyer’s suggestion that Judge Douglas is akin to a rape victim and are angry that her behavior is even being investigated, it should be said that the Council’s mandate compels them to act.
The Council publishes guidelines for judges, including the admonition that judges are expected to behave in a manner that attracts no criticism to their office or diminishes public respect for a particular judge or for the judiciary in general. Judges must understand and accept restrictions on their activities, even if those activities would be acceptable for ‘Jane Doe.’ More importantly, a judge must disclose any matter that reflects upon the credibility and repute of the judiciary as a whole.
This is where Judge Douglas will face intense scrutiny. She apparently admits that when she applied for a position on the bench, she did not disclose the published pornographic images, her allegedly unwilling involvement in a website called “Dark Cavern,” or the sharing of cocktails with her husband’s client, the complainant, Alex Chapman.
Her excuse? She says that everyone who needed to know already knew about the earlier scandal involving her, her husband, and Chapman. Admittedly, as a member of the bar when the events occurred, her only restraint was her personal moral values, which were her business alone.
However, once she became a public officer with the immense power and authority flowing from her judicial office, she ought to have realized that she was obliged to make nothing less than full written disclosure, as required by the judicial application form she filled out. The question to which she apparently answered “no” was: “Is there anything in your past or present which could reflect negatively on yourself or the judiciary and which should be disclosed?”
How is it possible that Judge Douglas did not consider that the events involving the publication of pornographic photos of her and the related fall-out involving her husband and Alex Chapman would not reflect negatively on her or the judiciary as a whole?
Lori Douglas is not, however, the only judge in Canada who has failed to disclose personal information on a judicial application. Most notably, Mr. Justice Richard Therrien of the Court of Quebec made several applications for the Quebec bench, divulging a criminal record and a year of imprisonment related to the FLQ crisis in Quebec in the early 1970’s.
Therrien was a minor and a first year law student whose sister sheltered the terrorists who abducted Pierre Laporte.* He spent several days in his sister’s home running errands for the men who were later convicted of kidnapping. On the occasions when he answered the form truthfully, Therrien’s applications were denied as a result of his criminal conviction.
In 1996 he reapplied; but, this time, he hid the events that occurred many years earlier and was finally appointed a Judge of the Court of Quebec. Shortly thereafter, the matter of his criminal record was discovered and an investigation was initiated which led to his removal from the bench. His “defence” was that he believed a pardon he received in 1987 did not require him to admit to a criminal record and he was certain that Quebec’s Minister of Justice would be aware of his history.
Judge Douglas’ “excuse” for non-disclosure sounds remarkably like former Judge Therrien’s.
While the Judicial Council hearings are presently focused on whether she was an active participant in her husband’s seduction of Alex Chapman, her bigger problem is her deliberate decision to conceal a matter in her past that could reflect negatively on her or her judicial colleagues.
I suspect she believed, like Richard Therrien, that her only chance for a prestigious judicial appointment was to pretend it never happened. After all, the easiest person to deceive is one’s own self.