Federal Court Justice Robin Camp won't be hearing new cases 'until further notice'

Robin Camp, a Federal Court judge under fire for asking a 19-year-old woman, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" during a Calgary sexual assault trial in 2014 will not be hearing any cases "until further notice," according to the court.

Complainant in rape trial was asked by judge, 'Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?'

Complainant in sex assault trial was asked by Federal Court judge, 'Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?' 2:18

Robin Camp, a Federal Court judge under fire for asking a 19-year-old woman, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" during a Calgary sexual assault trial in 2014, will not be assigned any cases for the time being. 

A Federal Court spokesman said Wednesday the chief justice has instructed Camp to focus on his gender-sensitivity counselling program and, as a result, Camp "will not be sitting again until further notice."

Camp will complete any outstanding legal matters with which he was occupied, the spokesman said.

Camp's lawyer, Frank Addario, said in a statement that he respects the right of those in the legal community to insist on "high standards in the administration of justice."

"I am troubled, however, by the public campaign for Justice Camp's removal. He cannot defend himself or rebut these attacks in the media," he said. 

"This is why professional conduct rules across Canada place 'special responsibility' on lawyers criticizing judges."

He goes on to argue the Appeal Court, in overturning Camp's ruling of not guilty in the sexual-assault case — while Camp was a provincial court judge — heard only the Crown's argument and "read only 'portions' of the trial transcript."

In making its decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal cited "doubts about the trial judge's understanding of the law governing sexual assaults," and that "sexual stereotypes and stereotypical myths, which have long since been discredited, may have found their way into the trial judge's judgment."

Original complaint

The investigation into Camp's conduct when he was a provincial court judge in Calgary began with a complaint from two law professors from the University of Calgary and two from Dalhousie University.

In the letter outlining their concerns, the lawyers cite Camp's questioning of rape shield laws that prevent the consideration of a woman's sexual history from influencing a sexual assault trial and his "absolute disregard and disdain for the affirmative definition of consent to sexual touching."

During the trial, Camp asked the prosecution where it's written that a man must seek consent before engaging in sexual activity and was informed there is ample case law establishing the rule.  

"Well can you show me one of these places it says that there's some kind of incantation that has to be gone through? Because it's not the way of the birds and the bees," he said.

Camp also referred to the complainant as the accused throughout the trial.

Law professor

Alice Woolley, a law professor and the associate dean academic in the faculty of law at the U of C, was one of the four professors to file the complaint. She says it is incumbent on those in the legal profession to call out injustices within the system in a measured and responsible way. 

"And in this case, the transcript demonstrated such significant issues with his conduct, it was absolutely essential, in our view, that these matters be brought before the judicial council for consideration," she said. 

In response to Addario's suggestion the full transcripts weren't reviewed and that the court of appeal only heard the Crown's version of events, Woolley said she would be "very surprised" if the full transcripts were not filed with the court, and that the court was clear it was being deliberately "cautious in reaching the conclusion they did given that they had only the Crown's case." 

"But ultimately the record in the court said what it said and the Court of Appeal made the conclusions it did about the use of sexual stereotyping and rape myths and errors of law by the judge, that those were evident on the record before the court."

The Canadian Judicial Council continues to review the case. 

Camp apologized for his comments.


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