A Federal Court judge has been removed from all cases indefinitely over his handling of a rape trial.
After the court's chief justice announced the decision, the lawyer for Justice Robin Camp urged the legal community not to "rush to judgment," and to heed codes of conduct stipulating that they exercise care when criticizing judges.
Justice Camp, while a member of the Alberta Provincial Court in 2014, asked the 19-year-old alleged victim of a rape by an older, larger man, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"
His comments came to light this month, when an Alberta Court of Appeal ruling criticized him for imposing stereotypes about sex-assault victims and misunderstanding the law of consent, and threw out his acquittal of the accused man, Alexander Wagar. Four law professors complained to the Canadian Judicial Council, a disciplinary body, and asked for his permanent removal.
The court's prompt announcement earlier this month that Justice Camp would not hear cases involving sexual conduct until the complaints were resolved, and the judge's public apology and promise to attend gender sensitivity counselling, did not allay public concerns. Since then, 21 of 29 full-time members of the University of Windsor law faculty have called for his removal from the bench, and 28 members of the University of Ottawa law faculty said he lacks the capacity for independence, integrity and impartiality.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice Paul Crampton said in a statement that he "has informed Justice Camp that his priority is to follow a comprehensive program of gender sensitivity counselling and therefore he will not be sitting again until further notice."
Also on Tuesday, Toronto lawyer Frank Addario said in an e-mailed statement to The Globe and Mail that he is Justice Camp's lawyer and that, while he acknowledges the right to hold the administration of justice to a high standard, he is troubled by the public campaign for removal.
"He cannot defend himself or rebut these attacks in the media. This is why professional conduct rules across Canada place 'special responsibility' on lawyers criticizing judges."
He said that when an Alberta prosecutor argued at an appeal hearing that Justice Camp's ruling in the rape case displayed bias, no one was there to speak on his behalf.
"The Court of Appeal heard only the Crown's argument and read only 'portions' of the trial transcript."
Alice Woolley, a University of Calgary law professor involved in the complaint against Justice Camp, said in response to Mr. Addario's statement that lawyers also have a responsibility to raise questions about a judge's suitability "when they are evident on the record. I don't know what explanation for 'Why didn't she keep her knees together' he's going to come up with."