I can’t imagine Justice Lori Douglas’ anguish over the protracted Judicial Inquiry that has been her life for the past four years. I wondered how she was able to carry on with the unrelenting battle, particularly after the resignation of the original Inquiry panel in 2013, the appointment of a new three-member panel in 2014, and the untimely death of her husband, lawyer Jack King, earlier this year.
With renewed vigour Judge Douglas’ counsel, Sheila Block Q.C., jumped back into the fray this Fall with multiple applications designed to short-circuit the formal hearing set for November 2014.
Yesterday the startling announcement that Judge Douglas would resign in a few months time, put an end to the embarrassingly salacious Inquiry, an event that may not have occurred but for the convergence of four recent developments.
Judge Douglas’ public statement, delivered by her counsel, focused on her family:
“Even though she loved being a judge, considered it an honour and a privilege to serve, she is at the point where this is the best choice for her, for her son and elderly father, for her late husband’s children, and the rest of her family”.
However, she was running into roadblocks, despite the valiant efforts of her counsel. The new panel,consisting of British Columbia’s Justice Austin Cullen, Quebec’s Chief Justice Francois Rolland, and Halifax lawyer, Christa Brothers Q.C. began the hearing afresh, confirming the renewed allegations in August 2014:
1. Alleged failure to disclose in her judicial application the events involving nude photos of her distributed by her husband and Alex Chapman’s involvement;
2. Alleged incapacity to continue as a judge due to the public availability of the photos;
3. Alleged failure to fully disclose to former independent counsel for the Inquiry
panel that she had modified her diary notes in relation to Alex Chapman’s involvement.
In August 2014 independent counsel, Suzanne Cote, sought a ruling from the panel with regards to a new complaint brought against Judge Douglas. This complaint came from Manitoba’s Chief Justice Joyal concerning expense account irregularities. Counsel wished to include this allegation in the ongoing Inquiry. Judge Douglas resisted this. In September the panel ruled in her favour, saying the matter was not relevant to the issues before the panel.
In early October Madam Justice Douglas asked the court to rule on five applications:
a) That allegations 1 and 2 be dismissed without a formal hearing;
b) That allegation 3 be struck for jurisdictional reasons, or alternatively, dismissed;
c) That all the photos be returned to Judge Douglas and be declared inadmissible as evidence in the Inquiry;
d) That her private psychological records be sealed;
e) That the Judicial Inquiry be moved to a location outside of Winnipeg.
The panel ordered the medical records sealed. However, the change of venue, summary dismissal of the charges, and Judge Douglas’ request to bar the nude photos from the hearing were denied.
She then applied in mid-November to the Federal Court of Canada to “stay” the decision of the panel to introduce the photos into evidence, an order the government did not oppose. It was common ground that the Federal Court’s involvement would delay the Inquiry well beyond the Spring of 2015.
But even more significant is Judge Douglas’ eligibility to receive her judicial pension in May of 2015, with ten years of service as a judge, despite not sitting as a judge for the last four years. She will reportedly receive approximately $130,000 annually for the rest of her life, about half of her annual salary of $315,000 per annum.
I suspect that Judge Douglas’ Plan A was to fight the allegations, with the hope she would be recognized as her husband’s unwitting victim. That strategy failed to take hold with the original panel and it became apparent that her unsuccessful attempts to change the venue, have the photos deemed inadmissible, or obtain a summary dismissal of the complaints, was heading in the same direction.
Plan B was waiting in the wings…. only four years to achieve her ten-year mark and walk away with a pension. After all, we know now that the Judicial Council is on par with Canada’s justice system when it comes to speedy justice.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang