Canadian Judicial Council announces next steps in the inquiry regarding the Honourable Lori Douglas
Ottawa, 12 August 2014 – The Inquiry Committee constituted to review the conduct of Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench has announced next steps in this matter.
The Inquiry Committee, chaired by the Honourable François Rolland, has been actively managing the process to move forward. After a number of case management discussions with counsel to the judge, Ms Sheila Block, and with Independent Counsel, Ms Suzanne Côté, the Inquiry Committee has now set hearing dates.
Public hearings are currently scheduled to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, beginning 24 November 2014. Two weeks have been set aside, although the hearings may conclude earlier. The Inquiry Committee has also set aside 27, 28 and 29 October, 2014 as dates to address any preliminary or procedural matters that might be raised. Further details will be made available in October.
Certain issues relating to this matter are the subject of proceedings before the Federal Court of Appeal. Those hearings are proceeding separately.
The Chair of the Judicial Conduct Committee of Council, the Honourable J. Michael MacDonald, noted that the public interest, in all judicial conduct matters, is to ensure that allegations of misconduct against a judge are reviewed in a fair and transparent manner. "I am pleased that the Inquiry Committee is proceeding with its work, so it can report back to the full Canadian Judicial Council as expeditiously and fairly as possible."
Information about the Council and its activities, including the review of its procedures launched earlier this Spring, can be found on the Council's website at www.cjc-ccm.ca.
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Background Information - Complaints and Inquiries
When someone believes that a judge's personal conduct (on or off the bench) is in question, a complaint can be made to the Canadian Judicial Council. When a complaint about a judge is found to have some merit, the question before the Council is ultimately whether or not the conduct in question prevents that judge from continuing to discharge his or her duties. The reasons for removal are set out in the Judges Act and address cases where a judge has become incapacitated or disabled from performing their duties by reason of age or infirmity, misconduct, a failure to execute the duties of the position, or being in a position incompatible with the functions of a judge.
All complaints received by the Canadian Judicial Council are reviewed in accordance with Council's Complaints Procedures and, as applicable, the Inquiries and Investigations By-laws.
A complaint is first reviewed by a member of the Judicial Conduct Committee. The judge in question, as well as the judge's chief justice, may be asked to comment the allegations. If the complaint cannot be resolved at that stage, the file can be referred to a Panel of up to five judges for further review. After considering the issues, a Panel can close the file. In some cases, remedial measures can be pursued. The Panel can express concern about the judge's conduct when warranted.
After reviewing the matter and conducting various enquiries, a Panel can also decide that the complaint may be serious enough to warrant a judge's removal. In that case, an Inquiry Committee is constituted to formally investigate the matter. The Committee is deemed to be a Superior Court.
An Inquiry Committee consists of an uneven number of members, the majority of which are Council members. The Minister of Justice can also appoint lawyers with a minimum of ten years experience. An "Independent Counsel" is appointed to present the facts to the Committee. Proceedings take place in public, unless the Inquiry Committee determines that the public interest requires that all or part of a hearing be conducted in private.
After completing its investigation, the Inquiry Committee reports its findings to Council. While Council accords considerable deference to the Inquiry Committee, it will then report its own recommendations to the Minister of Justice.
In accordance with the provisions of Canada's Constitution, a judge may only be removed from office after a joint address by Parliament. Details about past inquiries can be found on the Council's website at www.cjc-ccm.ca.