Canadian Judicial Council completes its review of a matter involving the Honourable Justice Terry Clackson
The Canadian Judicial Council (Council) has completed its review of the conduct of the Honourable Justice Terry D. Clackson of the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta. Following the Council’s review of complaints received in relation to a 2019 judgment issued by Justice Clackson in R v Stephan, and following a number of actions Justice Clackson has taken since and for the reasons set out below, the Council has determined that the issues do not warrant any further intervention and has closed the matter.
The release of Justice Clackson’s Reasons for Decision in R v Stephan resulted in Council receiving a number of complaints, including a letter signed by 42 doctors, lawyers and professors, raising concerns about Justice Clackson’s treatment of an expert medical witness. Allegations included that Justice Clackson acted in a manner that was discriminatory, and in a way that could be perceived as racist in his treatment of Dr. Adeagbo, a Nigerian born medical doctor. It was alleged that Justice Clackson undermined the administration of justice through his use of words and apparent disregard for Dr Adeagbo’s demeanor.
In accordance with Council’s Review Procedures, the matter was reviewed by the Honourable Christopher Hinkson, Chair of the Judicial Conduct Committee and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. As the judgment which gave rise to the complaints was appealed to the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the review was put in abeyance pending that outcome. As there was a subsequent Application for leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Council kept the complaint in abeyance. It was only in August 2022, once that application for leave was dismissed, that Council resumed its review of the matter.
Chief Justice Hinkson requested comments from Justice Clackson and the judge’s Chief Justice. In his response, Justice Clackson notes that while the language he used in his reasons for decision was his attempt to summarize the concerns and issued raised by the defense lawyers, he accepts that these led to the perception that he was insensitive to the difficulties Dr. Adeagbo faced in communicating responses to questions put to him during the trial. Justice Clackson further accepts that he was insensitive to the fact that his comments could be seen as derogatory, both to the witness and to others, and has offered his sincere apology to Dr. Adeagbo as well as his assurance that he will strive to do better.
Justice Clackson also offered that he has always strived to be fair to all persons - including all who appear before him in court. He found it difficult to learn that he acted in a manner that gave the impression he had an unconscious, implicit, or subconscious bias against persons who may be marginalized in society. In his commitment to learn from this experience, he has consulted experts and has completed readings in the area of cultural sensitivity, will continue to take advantage of cultural competency courses offered by judicial educators, and has agreed to be mentored on a regular basis.
Given all of the above, Chief Justice Hinkson is satisfied that Justice Clackson has learned from this event and has therefore directed that the matter be closed.
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