Judge's lawyer calls for sex scandal inquiry to fold

The lawyer for a Manitoba judge at the centre of a judicial inquiry looking into a sex scandal is suggesting that the process be halted.

Panel to rule Friday on allegation of bias

Jack King King has told the inquiry he was trying to fulfill his own fantasy and his wife, Lori Douglas, did not know what he was up to. (CBC)

The lawyer for a Manitoba judge at the centre of a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry looking into a sex scandal is suggesting  the inquiry should be halted because of bias.

Lawyer Sheila Block called for it to fold, saying she is concerned her client, Lori Douglas, is not getting a fair hearing.

Block based her assertions of bias on questions from the inquiry committee's lawyer to Douglas's husband, Jack King, earlier this week.

The inquiry by the Canadian Judicial Council, which includes the chief justices of three other provinces, adjourned Thursday and is to deliver its decision tomorrow on Block's request that it shut down the hearing.

Block called the examination of King by George Macintosh "aggressive, improper, inappropriate."

The questions, about how much Douglas knew about nude photos King took of her and posted online, could give the impression the CJC committee is biased against the couple, she said.

"It revealed one-side views. They were not follow-up, clarifying questions," Block said.

"The remedy … is that the committee should stand down and terminate these proceedings."

Block's complaint is based on questions Wednesday from Macintosh, who went after King about his testimony that Douglas never knew what he did with the photos, which showed her in bondage gear or performing sex acts.

King had also said she'd never even asked him what he'd done with the photos, and wasn't involved in posting the pictures on the internet. Macintosh seemed incredulous at that claim.

"So (the picture) is there, the camera's there, you're there, your wife is there. You didn't hide it, did you?" Macintosh asked.

Macintosh also said the evidence was painting a different picture about what King knew.

Rare hearing

The Canadian Judicial Council has only held similar inquiries nine times across the country in 40 years. And it has only once recommended that a judge be removed.

In 2009, the council recommended to the federal government that Paul Cosgrove be removed as a justice of the Ontario Superior Court due to incompetence and abuse of his powers.

Cosgrove resigned before the federal government could make its decision.

Independent counsel Guy Pratte agreed with Block and said if the inquiry committee continued to use Macintosh to aggressively cross-examine witnesses he would resign. 

"The appearance is incontestable that it was a strong and co-ordinated attack on the witness," Pratte said.

"If inquisition is to be done, it has to be done by independent counsel. You cannot descend into the arena.

The inquiry has been adjourned until Friday morning at 9:45 a.m. CT and the committee hopes to have reached a decision on Block's request.

If it has, and decides to continue, it's likely just one witness will be called. 

Removal from the bench

The inquiry was set to begin Thursday with Manitoba Appeal Court judge Martin Freedman giving testimony. He was head of the judicial appointments committee in 2005, when Douglas was first selected to the Court of Queen's Bench.

The inquiry is examining whether Douglas should be removed from the bench over the online photos and over allegations she was involved with her husband's solicitation of another man, Alex Chapman, to have sex with her in 2003.

It is looking into what Douglas knew, and whether she should have disclosed the information, when she was applying to be a judge.

She was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench (family division) in 2005, and later promoted to associate chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench (family division) in 2009.

Lori Douglas, an associate chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, has said she should not be penalized for her husband's actions. (CBC)

King, who had been answering questions since last Friday, wrapped up his testimony Wednesday afternoon, apologizing for posting the nude photos on a porn website and for trying to lure Chapman.

King told the inquiry he was trying to fulfill his own fantasy and Douglas did not know what he was up to.

He said he doesn't know why he did what he did and he can never forgive himself for betraying his wife's trust.

King, a lawyer, offered a similar apology last year when he was fined by the Law Society of Manitoba for sexually harassing Chapman.

He insisted his wife is completely innocent and only learned about what he did when he revealed it to her in June 2003, when Chapman asked King's legal firm to pay $100,000 for his silence on the allegations.

Chapman's lawyer, Rocco Galati, grilled King on Wednesday, insisting Douglas must have been involved.

"I suggest to you, sir, that you're lying," Galati said.

"My wife did not know what I was doing," King replied, pausing between each word for emphasis.

Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, demanded of King, "How could you do this to your wife?"

"I really don't know. It was just total self-gratification," King replied.

"A part of her will never forgive me."

Chapman was willing: King

King offered no apology to Chapman. He said he only pleaded guilty to professional misconduct because his actions were wrong in law. But he insisted Chapman was a willing participant in his sex talk in 2003.

Alex Chapman leaves the Federal Court Building in Winnipeg after testifying at the inquiry into Lori Douglas on July 16. (Trevor Hagan/Canadian Press)

"He said 'Look, don't you worry. I'm game, I'm up for this,"' King testified.

King said Chapman's complaint and demand for compensation in 2003 amounted to "blackmail."

"He was threatening very adverse publicity," King said.

A confidentiality agreement was reached, with King paying Chapman $25,000 on the condition he return all photos and never publicly discuss what had happened.

However, Chapman went public in 2010 with the accusations of sexual harassment, prompting the current inquiry.

During the application process to become a judge, one of the screening questions asks applicants whether there is anything in their background that would negatively affect the judiciary.

Douglas answered "no" on her application.

In a statement filed by her lawyers in early June, Douglas said she answered that way because people already knew, including the chief justice of Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench.

She also said she believed the photos had been removed, as per the confidentiality agreement, and the matter resolved.

Douglas, who is scheduled to be the last witness to testify but that might not happen now for a few months.

The inquiry was scheduled to wrap up this week but because only four of 14 witnesses have testified so far, it is likely to reconvene in late September or November.

The CJC panel must still decide on those dates. 

With files from The Canadian Press