Another round of legal wrangling has erupted that could derail the inquiry into a Manitoba judge whose nude photos appeared on the Internet.
Lori Douglas’s lawyer, Sheila Block, filed an application Monday with the Federal Court of Canada to quash the inquiry due to a “reasonable apprehension of bias.”
Ms. Block alleges that George Macintosh, the lawyer who has been asking questions on behalf of the five-member committee overseeing the inquiry, has engaged in “aggressive and argumentative questions, sexist and insulting references, misstatements and distortions of the evidence and attacks on [Judge Douglas’s] character and credibility.”
Guy Pratte, the independent lawyer leading the inquiry, filed a similar but separate motion Monday.
He did not ask the Federal Court to end the inquiry, but only to prevent Macintosh from asking any more questions and strike his previous questions from the record.
Mr. Pratte said the inquiry committee, which includes the chief justices of Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, has over-stepped its bounds by becoming involved in a hearing while also presiding over it.
“The procedure adopted by the committee is beyond its jurisdiction, violates the [Canadian Judicial Council] bylaws and policies and … is inconsistent with the principles of fairness by which the committee is legally bound,” Mr. Pratte wrote.
The inquiry committee is examining whether Judge Douglas should be removed from the bench. Judge Douglas is an associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench, heading up the family court division.
The inquiry is examining a controversy that began when Judge Douglas’s husband, Jack King, sexually harassed a client.
In 2003, when she and Mr. King were family law lawyers at the same firm, Mr. King uploaded sexually explicit photos of her on a website dedicated to interracial sex. Some showed her in bondage gear or performing sex acts. He also e-mailed photos to a client named Alexander Chapman and asked him to have sex with her.
Mr. Chapman complained to the law firm and Mr. King settled the matter within weeks by paying Mr. Chapman $25,000 to return all the photos and to never discuss the matter.
Mr. Chapman broke that deal in 2010 and complained to the judicial council, insisting Judge Douglas was part of the sexual harassment.
Among the allegations before the inquiry is that Judge Douglas did not disclose the matter when she applied to be a judge. She applied three times before finally being accepted in 2005.
The inquiry is also examining whether the very existence of the photos precludes Judge Douglas from continuing in her job.
The Canadian Judicial Council has only held inquiries into judges nine times in 40 years. It has only once recommended that a judge be removed.