Block sex photos ahead of disciplinary hearing, Lori Douglas's lawyer asks court

A disciplinary committee does not need to see graphic sex photographs of a senior Manitoba judge to decide whether she should stay on the bench, her lawyer argued Thursday.
Manitoba Justice Lori Douglas faces removal from the bench over nude photographs of her posted without permission on the internet by her late husband. (CBC)

A disciplinary committee does not need to see graphic sex photographs of a senior Manitoba judge to decide whether she should stay on the bench, her lawyer argued Thursday.

Allowing the committee to view the pictures of Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas, released on the Internet without her consent, would only serve to revictimize her, court heard.

"They're highly prejudicial. They're not necessary for the determination of this issue," lawyer Sheila Block told Federal Court.

"These are people she has dinner with. These are colleagues. The harm is tremendous."

The committee of the Canadian Judicial Council, supported by its independent counsel, has ruled it needs to view the photographs to decide whether they are "demeaning to women" and might warrant Douglas's removal from the bench.

Judge Richard Mosley said the court could hold a hearing on permanently blocking the photographs within two weeks, but Block said that wouldn't help.

An immediate interim stay is needed, she said, because the panel is slated to begin its hearings on Monday, and the pictures would be entered as evidence right away.

"Once the bell is rung, it's over," Block told Mosley.

'At the core of the allegations,' says panel

In a ruling last month, the panel said the photographs were relevant.

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to consider these allegations without a concrete first-hand appreciation of their nature and what they depict," the panel stated.

"Such characteristics are precisely at the core of the allegations which we are charged to investigate."

In court Thursday, the committee's independent counsel, Suzanne Cote, opposed the requested interim stay, saying the effect would be to put the entire proceedings on hold indefinitely given the importance of the photographs.

"The main dispute is about the effect of these pictures," Cote told Mosley.

The case speaks to the integrity of the justice system, Cote said, and the panel needs to view the images at the outset of their hearings to make informed findings.

Block heaped scorn on that notion. The nature of the images is already well known, she said.

"There's no issue these are graphic pictures," Block said. "These are pictures of people having sex."

The photographs, some of which depict bondage, were taken by Douglas's now-late husband Jack King before she became a judge.

Douglas 'totally a victim,' says lawyer

Without telling her, he sent them to a client and put them on the Internet. The client distributed them further in 2010, despite an agreement in 2003 with King to return or destroy them.

One of the allegations is that Douglas failed to disclose that the photographs were on the Internet when she applied to become a family court judge in 2004.

Block called it a classic case of "revenge porn" and said any judge could become a victim.

"Suppose the judge was raped and somebody put it on YouTube?" Block said. "(Douglas) is totally a victim. She is entitled to the sex that she chooses to have."

Douglas is now facing potential punishment, the lawyer said, because of something nasty her husband did.

"A woman is not owned by her husband," Block said.

Mosley, who at one point noted judges are routinely required to view sensitive material, said he would likely rule on the stay motion on Friday.