Canadian Judicial Council completes its review of the matter involving the Honourable Patrick Smith
*Note: A Federal Court decision in this matter was rendered on May 21, 2020. The Court declared that Justice Patrick Smith in accepting the appointment of Interim Dean (Academic) at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University did not breach section 55 of the Judges Act, nor did he breach his judicial ethics.
Ottawa, 6 November 2018 –A Judicial Conduct Review Panel constituted by the Canadian Judicial Council has completed its review of the matter involving the Honourable Patrick Smith. The Review Panel concluded that Justice Smith’s decision to act as Interim Dean of the Faculty of Law at Lakehead University contravened section 55 of the Judges Act. However, the Review Panel also concluded that this misconduct was not so serious that it might warrant removal from judicial office.
The Panel issued a Report and the conclusions can be summarized as follows:
• Section 55 of the Judges Act requires judges to devote themselves exclusively to their judicial duties.
• Being granted a leave of absence under section 54 of the Judges Act does not relieve a judge from their obligations under section 55 of the Act.
• The judge in this case had an ethical obligation to avoid involvement in controversy or public debate, as those could expose him to political attack or be inconsistent with the dignity of judicial office.
• Of concern is that the situation could have led to judicial challenges of decisions regarding the university and that such litigation would have come before the Court of which the judge is a member.
• Ethical concerns arise for a court, or a judge thereof, that lends judicial prestige and reputation to an institution in order to instill public confidence.
• The judge’s decision, notwithstanding his genuine desire to help the Faculty of Law at Lakehead, was ill-advised.
In its conclusions, the Review Panel noted:
“Justice Smith was motivated by a genuine desire to use his skills, background and experience to help the Faculty in a time of crisis. As previously noted, this is not a case involving bad behaviour or improper motives on the part of Justice Smith.”
The Panel, in keeping with the provisions of Council’s By-laws, referred the matter back to Senior Associate Chief Justice Pidgeon to determine the most appropriate way to resolve the matter.
Senior Associate Chief Justice Pidgeon expressed his complete agreement with the Panel’s reasons. Given that the judge has resigned as interim Dean of the Faculty of Law at Lakehead University, he expressed his concerns to the judge, and decided that no further measures need be taken by Council.
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