Supreme Court rejects request to hear case involving Rod Gillis

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a request by prosecutors to hear a case involving prominent Saint John lawyer Rodney Gillis.

Crown was seeking to appeal Saint John lawyer's obstruction of justice conviction being set aside

The Supreme Court of Canada has rejected a request by prosecutors to hear a case involving prominent Saint John lawyer Rodney Gillis. 1:17

Prominent Saint John lawyer Rodney Gillis won another victory Thursday in the obstruction of justice case against him.

The Supreme Court of Canada upheld Gillis's conviction being set aside by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal, by refusing to hear an appeal launched by the Crown.

"We knew that it was going to be a bit of an uphill battle," said Jennifer MacLellan, senior Crown counsel with the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service's appeals branch, who had filed the application for leave to appeal.

"I think the statistics are somewhere between 10 and 15 per cent of leave applications are allowed. I mean, they don’t grant that many of them, but we thought we had some good arguable issues that would get us there," she said.

​Gillis, who was accused of attempting to stop a witness from testifying against one of his clients, was found guilty of obstruction of justice on Jan. 31, 2013.

But the New Brunswick Court of Appeal quashed his conviction in a unanimous decision on Sept. 9, 2014.

'Contrary to existing legal precedent'

The Crown filed an application for leave to appeal with the Supreme Court on Nov. 10, on four grounds, including that the Court of Appeal failed to "give sufficient deference to the trial judge's factual and credibility findings."

​"This new, and dangerous, limitation on the recognized expertise of a trial judge in making factual findings to demeanour evidence alone is contrary to existing legal precedent and sets a dangerous new standard for appellate intervention," the application stated.

Prominent Saint John criminal defence lawyer Rod Gillis had his conviction on a charge of obstruction of justice quashed by the New Brunswick Court of Appeal last fall.
​The 28-page document also suggested the Court of Appeal abandoned "any concept of judicial restraint" and "engaged in a wholesale retrial, going so far as to listen to the audio recording of the respondent's evidence at trial."

"We thought that we had some issues that would interest the Supreme Court of Canada," said MacLellan.

"Usually you’re looking for an issue of national importance that you think might interest the Supreme Court of Canada as something that they feel they should address, and we thought that we had that there."

But a panel of three Supreme Court justices dismissed the Crown's application on Thursday. Justices Marshall Rothstein, Thomas Cromwell, and Michael Moldaver did not give any reasons in their decision.

Gillis, a veteran criminal defence lawyer, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Decision on new trial pending

Prosecutors say a decision on whether to launch a new trial or drop the case will be made within weeks.

Crown prosecutor Peter Craig had previously said the case would be tried again.

Although Gillis had requested an acquittal from the Court of Appeal last fall, the court refused, opting instead to merely quash his conviction and order a new trial before another judge, should the Crown decide to retry the case.

The province's highest court ruled that errors of fact and law by the trial judge, Moncton provincial court Judge Irwin Lampert, "combined to deprive the appellant of a fair trial, and have resulted in a miscarriage of justice."

Gillis had been sentenced to 22 months in jail in June 2013 after being found guilty of obstruction of justice. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

His appeal centred around the trial judge's interpretation of a note Rod Gillis wrote in 2009 to a client's former employer and a comment Gillis was alleged to have made.

Gillis was representing former Liberal MLA Frank Branch in a civil lawsuit against the North Shore Forest Products Marketing Board, and on criminal charges of fraud and extortion.

The trial court heard that during a break in the civil proceedings, Gillis approached Alain Landry, the manager of the marketing board, and offered a deal.

Landry testified Gillis said to him, "They're your witnesses, make sure they don't testify and the crown won't have a case."

Testifying in his own defence during the trial, Gillis denied ever making that statement to Landry.

The trial judge found that Gillis's denial was not credible.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.