Controversial former judge Robin Camp can once again practise law in Alberta

The former Federal Court judge who resigned from the bench after a hearing into his actions during a sexual assault trial, has been reinstated into the Alberta Law Society.

Camp resigned from bench after hearing held on his conduct during Calgary sexual assault trial

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp leaves a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry in a Calgary hotel on Sept. 9, 2016. He has been cleared to practise law in Alberta. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

Robin Camp, the former Federal Court judge who resigned from the bench after his actions during a sexual assault trial became the subject of a hearing, has been reinstated into the Law Society of Alberta.

The decision by a law society committee means Camp can once again practise law in the province, although he would have to go through a separate process if he wanted to appear in chambers or in any Alberta court.

He resigned from the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) when called to the bench. 

Camp came under fire for his comments and conclusions during a sexual assault trial in Calgary in 2014.

Court transcripts from the trial show that Camp, who was then a provincial court judge, called the complainant "the accused" numerous times. She was homeless and 19 years old at the time of the alleged assault.

Camp also told the young woman "pain and sex sometimes go together" and asked why she didn't just keep her "knees together."

A Canadian Judicial Council hearing into his conduct recommended he be removed from the bench. Camp resigned, but not before fighting to keep his job and trying to have the council ruling overturned. 

A new trial was ordered in the sexual assault case and the accused was acquitted. 

Lawyer vs. judge

The judicial council called Camp's behaviour during the 2014 sexual assault trial "profoundly destructive" and said it undermined public confidence in the judiciary.

Camp's lawyer, Alain Hepner, argued his client had undergone significant rehabilitation, but also that the expectations of a lawyer are different from those of a judge. 

He argued a judge should maintain impartiality, but a lawyer isn't precluded from making statements that challenge the laws, including those pertaining to rape and sexual assault. 

Hepner said Camp's conduct during the trial "would not have led to his disbarment had he been defence counsel at the time."

"Insensitive comments, comments evidencing a belief in rape myths or critiquing the law, are all significant issues for a judge conducting a sexual assault trial, but less so for counsel," said Hepner. 

"Such comments would not constitute laudatory behaviour, and would invite objection by the Crown, but no more. In such circumstances, reinstating Mr. Camp as a member of the Law Society of Alberta, when viewed objectively, is most unlikely to have a serious adverse impact on public confidence in the legal system."

Hepner argued his client has, through study, counselling and mentoring, "rehabilitated any erroneous beliefs," according to the law society decision.

Public confidence

The law society was primarily concerned with the effect Camp's reinstatement would have on the public's confidence in the legal profession.

In its decision, the society said "the LSA must ensure that the reputation of the profession, collectively, takes precedence over that of the fortunes of any of its members, individually."

It said its decision to reinstate Camp was based primarily on his "rehabilitation efforts and outcomes." 

In quoting another case on which it based much of its inquiry, the society said the legal profession has a special responsibility to recognize rehabilitation. 

"The committee is therefore of the view that reinstating Mr. Camp to the LSA would not only be compatible with the best interests of the public, but better serve those interests, taking into account the importance of rehabilitation both to our system of justice and to society's fundamental values," the decision says.

According to the decision, Camp does not intend to practise criminal law.