Lori Douglas under fire for expense claims
Manitoba Chief Justice files complaint against judge at the centre of stalled inquiry over sex scandal
CBC News has learned that Chief Justice Glenn Joyal of Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench has filed a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council over expense claims by one of his own judges — Justice Lori Douglas.
The Judicial Council said the complaint is being reviewed by the vice chair of its judicial conduct committee. Chief Justice Joyal wrote to the CJC late in spring of 2013 with his concerns.
Douglas is already the subject of an inquiry by the CJC into allegations of sexual harassment by Alex Chapman. Those proceedings are stalled while a review ordered by a federal court examines whether the Canadian Judicial Council's panel of five judges is biased against Douglas.
Alex Chapman alleged the judge's husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, sent him nude photos of his wife and wanted Chapman to have sex with her. King was representing Chapman in a divorce case at the time. Douglas also faces other allegations, including that she failed to disclose the situation involving Chapman when she applied for a position as a judge in 2004. Douglas has denied the allegations and says her husband acted on his own.
The new complaint against Douglas centres on her use of an expense account provided to judges through Federal Judicial Affairs Canada.
In a statement to CBC News, Justice Joyal said, "The concerns raised in this case relate to the use of public funds, about which no Chief Justice can or should be indifferent."
A statement by the CJC said Joyal's concerns include questions about the use of a "representational allowance" by Douglas. Judges in Douglas' position are allowed a $10,000 allowance for reasonable travel and other expenses.
According to her lawyer, Douglas submitted claims for $6,400 in medically-prescribed treatments over four years. Lawyer Sheila Block of Torys LLP in Toronto says the claims are "related directly to the stress of the CJC proceedings, including the distribution to her peers of intimate pictures of the Judge."
Block told the CBC, "Seventy five percent of the $6,400 in medically related expenses had in fact been pre-approved by the Commissioner (of Federal Judicial Affairs Canada) before they were submitted. All of the expenses were approved on proper documentation."
Douglas also submitted expenses for four trips to Toronto to see her lawyers while preparing for the Inquiry. Block said the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada approved those claims but has asked in future for any further trips to be billed through the law firm for reimbursement.
In a statement, Block told CBC News the Chief Justice (of Manitoba) "has no role or access to another judge’s expenses. It is entirely a matter between the Justice and the Commissioner for Judicial Affairs."
Karen Busby teaches law at the University of Manitoba. She said it's very rare for another judge to lay a complaint of this nature.
"I mean the first thing is, how would anybody know? These are private matters. If there was a concern about the expenses, then you would have thought it would be the Commissioner of Judicial Affairs that would have laid the complaint and not another judge."
Douglas has not been actively involved with the Manitoba courts for more than three years, but she continues to draw a full salary in her role as Associate Chief Justice of Manitoba while the inquiry into her conduct is underway. She also has access to an annual $5,000 expense account for "reasonable incidental expenditures."
According a statement from Manitoba Chief Justice Joyal, Douglas has done no work of any kind since Chapman's allegations formed the complaint against her in front of the CJC.
"Associate Chief Justice Douglas has not undertaken or performed any projects or work for the Court of Queen’s Bench since she stopped sitting in September 2010 and since my decision in February 2011 to not assign her any administrative duties in relation to the Family Division."
Through his staff, Justice Joyal was asked to comment on the complaint he filed with the CJC.
CBC News was provided with the following statement: "Concerns or questions of an ethical nature as raised by a Chief Justice concerning another judge’s conduct may be referred to the Canadian Judicial Council for consideration. Questions about such matters should be directed to the Canadian Judicial Council for any comment deemed appropriate."
Block said Associate Chief Justice Douglas contacted the Commissioner directly to see if he had any concerns about expenses previously approved and volunteered to repay any expenses about which he might have a "retrospective concern."
Block said the Commissioner found no concerns and nothing needed to be repaid. Block said Chief Justice Joyal was informed of the position of the Commissioner before he filed his complaint.