A man who says he was sexually harassed by a Manitoba judge has asked the Canadian Judicial Council to appoint a lawyer to help him because he has been turned down by several other lawyers.

Alexander Chapman spoke as the council's initial hearing into the conduct of Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench began Saturday morning.

Chapman made a tearful submission to the panel as he asked for legal representation.

lori-douglas

Lori Douglas stepped away from her duties as a sitting judge shortly after the complaint was filed against her. ((CBC))

"I need someone to protect my rights," he said. "It took a lot of guts to come here today."

The Canadian Judicial Council is holding the weekend hearing to determine the parameters of the inquiry, which could lead to Douglas being removed from the bench. The CJC panel decided the public inquiry will be held in Winnipeg this summer, witth hearings on June 25-28, July 16-20 and July 23-27.

Chapman, who's from Winnipeg, filed the complaint in July 2010, alleging that Douglas's husband, Jack King, tried to pressure him into having sex with Douglas in 2002 and 2003.

Chapman said when he retained King to handle his divorce in 2002, the lawyer showed him sexually explicit photos of Douglas, naked in various forms of bondage, in chains, with sex toys and performing oral sex. The photos also appeared on a pornographic website where white women looked for black men to have sex.

Both King and Douglas were lawyers and partners with a Winnipeg law firm at the time.

'There's not a lawyer in this town that will touch this.'—Alexander Chapman

Douglas stepped away from her duties as a sitting judge shortly after Chapman's complaint was filed.

Members of the CJC panel on Saturday decided the council will pay for a lawyer to work with Chapman for "limited purposes" to help him with an application for standing at the hearing. If he's then granted standing, the CJC would pay for all Chapman's legal fees for the inquiry.

CJC executive director Norman Sabourin said Justice Douglas's legal fees are already being paid, as required by the federal Judges Act, by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs.

Chapman said he's had difficulty finding a lawyer because many Winnipeg attorneys "won't stand up against the system because they're afraid."

"There's not a lawyer in this town that will touch this," he said.

The chair of the panel, Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, told Chapman he could look outside Winnipeg to hire a lawyer.

The hearing began with a focus on procedural matters, including who can take part in the public inquiry.

CBC's Marisa Dragani said from the courthouse that a citizen blogger, Clare Pieuk, has asked for intervenor status at the inquiry. Pieuk, who is not a lawyer, said he has always had an interest in the justice system.

Saturday's hearing was open to the public and security was tight, Dragani said.

A Winnipeg police officer was present for the hearing. A Canadian Judicial Council spokesperson said it was prudent to have an officer there, partly based on protocol and also because of some of the blog posts they have seen.

There are three judges and two lawyers on the panel. The judges are from across the country: P.E.I, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is only the ninth time since the CJC's founding in 1971 that a complaint against a sitting judge has gotten to the inquiry phase.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story erroneously reported this was the eighth time since the Canadian Judicial Council's founding that a complaint against a sitting judge has gotten to the inquiry phase. It is the ninth.
    Sep 13, 2013 2:50 AM CT