Quebec’s Former Lieutenant-Governor Sentenced to 18-Month Jail Term

BarristerPerhaps one of the most prestigious appointments in Canada is that of a provincial Lieutenant-Governor, appointments made by the Governor-General of Canada in consultation with Canada’s Prime Minister and the Premier of a particular province.

The Lieutenant-Governor performs various ceremonial duties on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, while elected politicians and those appointed carry out the daily operations of government. It is a non-partisan position although politicians have been appointed and Canada prides itself on the appointment of women and minorities.

Lise Thibault was Quebec’s 27th Lieutenant-Governor appointed in 1997 by Prime Minister Chretien. She attended teacher’s college and taught adult education for several years before she worked as a host and researcher for the CBC. Her appointment was widely heralded as she was the first woman and the first disabled person to be appointed to the post in Quebec. As a result of a tobogganing accident as a teenager she was confined to a wheelchair.

Serving for over ten years, her fall from grace occurred in 2007 when federal and provincial auditors determined she had spent $700,000 in unjustified expenses including:

-$45,000 for “gifts” without the names of recipients.
-$24,000 to transport her official van to the United States while she was on vacation, rather than renting a car there.
-$12,000 to the provincial air service for a one-day fishing trip in the Gaspe region.
-$44,000 in “tips” paid by her bodyguards during hotel stays and sporting activities.

Upon her appointment she promised to bring “values” to the position, but instead defrauded two levels of government by billing them for her golf lessons, fishing rods, roof repairs at her home, and even the legal fees for her divorce lawyer.

Her defence lawyer argued she enjoyed “sovereign immunity” against criminal charges as an agent of the Queen, an arrogant position considering she was a civil servant. However, the Court rejected her argument and Judge Carol St.-Cyr described her behaviour as “highly reprehensible” and part of a “culture of deceit”.

Ms. Thibault was also ordered to reimburse the government the sum of $300,000.

Tonight she sits in a Quebec prison, despite her lawyer’s plea that at age 76 her punishment is overly severe. She is expected to be released next week pending her appeal.

Having received three honorary doctorates during her tenure as Lieutenant-Governor, it is galling that she is nothing more than a greedy crook, who managed to obtain and abuse her coveted position, forgetting that her job was to serve the citizens of Quebec.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

Class Action Lawsuit Continues Against Family Court Judges

10950859361151CDPA group of fathers in New Jersey have banded together to bring a class action lawsuit against five family court judges. They allege their constitutional rights were violated by orders made by these judges that deprived them of a relationship with their children. They also claim they were not afforded due process or equal protection under the law.

Their main argument is that by basing custody decisions on the “best interests of the child” their rights are violated. They also allege that lack of appropriate notice before a court order is made regarding their children is a breach of due process.

Due process, also called “natural justice”, is the right to have an unbiased hearing with an opportunity to present your evidence in defence to the claim against you.

Surender Malhan is one of the fathers in the class action. He alleges that the mother of his two children provided him with two hours notice she would be seeking sole custody of the children. He was given no real opportunity to organize rebuttal evidence to the allegations he was an unfit parent.

When he spoke to the media about his situation, family court Judge Nancy Sivilli issued a gag order preventing him from speaking publicly about his case. Mr. Malhan’s lawyer is now suing Judge Sivilli for First Amendment (free speech) violations.

The State of New Jersey is fighting back and brought a court application seeking a summary dismissal of the class action suit, arguing the fathers were using their court action to effectively appeal the orders made against them in the Family Court.

Judge Freda Wolfson presided over the State’s application, and refused to dismiss the fathers’ action, relying on a 2013 appellate decision, B.S. v. Somerset County, where the Third Circuit Court of Appeals refused to dismiss an action brought by a mother in Pennsylvania who alleged she lost custody of her daughter in a hearing that did not afford her due process.

The State also unsuccessfully argued that “sovereign immunity” protected New Jersey from this type of lawsuit. Judge Wolfson ruled the individual judges were the focus of the court action, not the State of New Jersey.

The debate over the usefulness of the “best interests of the child” test for determining custody has been simmering for a decade or more. It is often suggested that proponents of shared parenting want to eliminate the “best interests” test. Perhaps some do, but I believe that Courts simply need to embrace the substantial psychological literature that resoundingly reveals that children need a full relationship with each parent and that is what is in their best interests.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang