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Council exonerates Quebec magistrate Add to ...

A Quebec judge who sparked a controversy for walking away from a sensational biker trial has been cleared by the Canadian Judicial Council, which concluded that the magistrate was acting in good faith.

Mr. Justice Jean-Guy Boilard of Quebec Superior Court should not face removal from the bench for his decision to withdraw last year from a trial of 17 Hells Angels associates, the council said in a ruling to be made public today.

"While some may disagree with Justice Boilard's decision to step aside, it was his decision to make," the council said.

"In the end, it was Justice Boilard, acting in good faith, who was required to decide his capacity to continue."

Judge Boilard, well known for his no-nonsense style on the bench, suddenly withdrew in the 15th week of the biker trial because he had received sharp criticism from the Canadian Judicial Council for comments he had made in another matter.

His withdrawal meant the complex trial, which had already cost $2.7-million, had to start over under another judge.

The judicial council not only exonerated Judge Boilard for his actions; it also rejected the findings of an inquiry committee last fall that said Judge Boilard had acted improperly.

The council said the judge was acting within his "judicial duties." He had been in the middle of an "extremely difficult and highly publicized jury trial" when he received the highly critical letter from the Canadian Judicial Council.

Further, the judge found out about the reprimand through a journalist.

He thought it over for four days then stunned observers by pulling out of the trial, saying he lacked the "moral authority" to continue.

"There is no reason to doubt that he genuinely believed that he must withdraw or that he gave proper consideration to appropriate factors," the council said in its ruling, dated last Friday.

The office of the Quebec Attorney-General has requested the probe into whether Judge Boilard's actions constituted misconduct and was "incompatible with the due execution of his office."

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