A panel of five judges has been asked to review a complaint alleging sexual harassment and discrimination on the part of a Manitoba judge.
Lori Douglas stepped away from her duties as a sitting judge of the province's Court of Queen's Bench in September 2010, shortly after the complaint was filed with the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC).
Winnipegger Alexander Chapman, 44, made the complaint in July, claiming Douglas's husband, Jack King, tried to pressure him to have sex with her in 2002 and 2003.
At the time, both King and Douglas were lawyers, partners at the firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman in Winnipeg.
Chapman's complaint was considered by the vice-chairperson of the CJC's judicial conduct committee, Neil Wittmann, chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.
"After considering all the available information in the case, Chief Justice Wittmann has decided that this is a matter that warrants further consideration," said a CJC news release issued Wednesday.
"The review panel of five judges [three CJC members and two other judges] will review the matter and decide if the file should be closed or whether other measures should be taken. This could include referring the matter to a lawyer for further inquiries, pursuing remedial measures, expressing concern to the judge or referring the case to a public inquiry committee."
Chapman filed a similar complaint against King with the Law Society of Manitoba in July 2010. In early November, the society announced that it had charged King with violating three provisions of the code of professional conduct: integrity (breach of trust), prohibition against sexual harassment and conflict of interest.
The charges have yet to be proven in a disciplinary hearing, which includes two lawyers and one member of the public.
No date for that hearing has yet been set.
Chapman also filed a $10-million lawsuit against King, along with a $7-million claim against Douglas and a $50-million claim against Thompson Dorfman Sweatman.
He filed all three lawsuits on Sept. 1, claiming he was harassed and suffered emotional distress when King tried, but failed, to get him to have sex with Douglas.
He later dropped the lawsuits against the firm and Douglas; the suit against King was tossed out by the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench.
In his decision to dismiss the suit, Judge John Menzies wrote that Chapman has no right to sue after signing a confidential settlement agreement with King seven years ago, promising not to take legal action against King, his partners or the law firm.
Chapman first met King in 2002, when he retained the lawyer to handle his divorce. King showed him sexually explicit photos of Douglas, naked in various forms of bondage, in chains, with sex toys and performing oral sex.
Second complaint reviewed
A second complaint against Douglas was also considered by Wittmann.
The complainant, whose name was not divulged publicly, claimed that Douglas should not have been the judge to preside over a divorce case involving the complainant and her ex-husband, according to the CJC news release.
The complainant said Douglas had a personal relationship with her ex-husband and might not have been objective.
However, after a review of all available information, Wittmann found that there was no evidence to support those allegations, "which were based on speculation, hearsay and assumptions," according to the CJC news release.
An outside lawyer was also asked to review the matter, as required by the CJC complaints procedures.
Wendy Harris of the Vancouver firm Harris and Company conducted the review and agreed that complaint was unsupported by evidence.
The file on that complaint has now been closed.