Decision made in a complaint against the Honourable J.E. Scanlan
Ottawa, 7 January 2011 - The Canadian Judicial Council indicated today that a decision has been made about a complaint against the Honourable J.E. Scanlan of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Reports about this complaint appeared in the media in recent months.
The complaint against Justice Scanlan alleged improprieties that would have taken place in his personal life. The alleged events all involved the judge’s personal relationship with the ex-wife of the complainant. There were no allegations regarding the judge’s court decisions or other official duties.
The review of the complaint took much time, since the allegations were complex and involved many individuals. Interviews were conducted with several people. After an initial review by the Chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee of Council, the complaint was reviewed by a Panel of five judges: three Chief Justices and two other judges, all from outside Nova Scotia.
After considering all the facts of the case, the Panel found that almost all of the allegations against the judge were unfounded or did not warrant further consideration. However, the Panel found that one allegation was founded, in part. The judge twice accompanied, in a personal capacity, the complainant’s ex-wife when she spoke to RCMP officers about the complainant’s behaviour, which she found threatening.
The Panel noted that the mere presence of a judge at such meetings could be perceived, by an outside person, as an attempt by a judge to use the prestige of judicial office to influence officials or seek a certain outcome. Any comments made during such a meeting, whether spoken seriously or in humour, can be easily misinterpreted. In that regard, the Panel expressed its concerns to Justice Scanlan and indicated that judges should generally avoid such situations.
However, since the judge did not wilfully try to influence the RCMP officers and did not act in bad faith, the Panel found that no other steps were needed in regard to the incident. Accordingly, the file has been closed with a letter of explanation to the complainant.
As part of its mandate, the Canadian Judicial Council works to foster ongoing public confidence in the judiciary. Information about the Council, including its Complaints Procedures, can be found on the Council’s website at www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca.
Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel