Sudbury judge suspended for 30 days, faced 'exceptional, difficult personal circumstances'

A veteran Sudbury judge has been suspended without pay for 30 days— the stiffest penalty he faced other than being removed from the bench.

Justice John Keast was found guilty of misconduct in November

Veteran Sudbury Justice John Keast has been suspended without pay for 30 days for judicial misconduct relating to a child custody case. (Kate Rutherford)

A veteran Sudbury judge has been suspended without pay for 30 days— the stiffest penalty he faced other than being removed from the bench.

Justice John Keast was found guilty of misconduct at a hearing of the Ontario Judicial Council last month in Toronto.

It found that he blurred the lines between the personal and professional last year when he exchanged a series of text messages with a friend who worked at the Children's Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin.

In those texts, Keast obtains confidential information about a child protection case involving a woman and her daughter, who cannot be named under a publication ban imposed by the four-person judicial panel.

Keast is also highly critical in the text messages of the Sudbury CAS and individual staff members, on top of advising his friend to sue the organization.

In its decision released Friday, the panel called this "an isolated incident within a 17-year unblemished judicial career."

"They were the product of exceptional, difficult personal circumstances, in which Justice Keast was striving to protect a vulnerable person," reads the decision from the panel, chaired by Justice Eileen Gillese.

"We are satisfied that Justice Keast will not repeat this sort of conduct and that the CAS need have no fear about the treatment it would receive from Justice Keast." 

Keast has remained a judge during the 15 months since the disciplinary process began, but he has not presided over any cases, which the panel noted has caused him "much anguish."