Judge sex controversy exposes wider issues

The Canadian Judicial Council may have to widen its inquiry into the sex controversy involving Justice Lori Douglas, says a legal expert.

The Canadian Judicial Council may have to widen its inquiry into the sex controversy involving Justice Lori Douglas, says a legal expert.

Douglas is implicating many people in Winnipeg's legal community as she denies claims that she knowingly participated with her husband in sexually harassing a man or had anything to do with pornographic images of her being posted on a website, calling such allegations "a complete fabrication."

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) is conducting an inquiry into Douglas's conduct, based on the allegations against her. It held a preliminary hearing in Winnipeg in May and has scheduled the public hearings for June 25-27.

Lori Douglas has denied the sex allegations lodged against her. ((CBC))

The inquiry, spawned by an earlier review, could lead to Douglas' removal from the bench, where she is an associate chief justice (family division).

The CJC alleges Douglas, who was appointed to the bench a couple of years after the photos were posted online, didn't disclose that information on her judicial application.

A statement by Douglas, responding to those and other allegations by the CJC, was filed by her lawyers on Wednesday.

In it, Douglas names several people who were allegedly aware of the photos, including the chief justice of Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench.

He was concerned that, should Douglas become a judge, she could be blackmailed. So he opposed her candidacy but later changed his mind.

These new revelations, although unproven, shine a light into how judges are appointed in Canada and may force the CJC to look into more than just Douglas' actions, said Allan Hutchinson, a professor at the Osgoode Hall law school at York University in Toronto.

Jack King was reprimanded in 2011 after admitting to professional misconduct. (CBC)

"This is an issue that doesn't really go to her behaviour, but goes to that of the chief justice and it seems to me that the judicial council is going to have to throw their net a little wider in trying to discover what had happened," he said.

Similarly, University of Manitoba law professor David Asper said it would appear, from Douglas’ statement, that the presence of the nude pictures was widely known in the legal community.

Therefore, the reason she said "No" when asked if anything could impede her being a judge is because it had been discussed already.

"This was a problem that involved her husband and a third party, not Justice Douglas. So the implication is that she was OK to say no to the question," he said.

But, Asper added, what we're hearing right now are statements, not evidence.

'Victim of wrongdoing'

Douglas, in her statement to the CJC, also claims to be "the victim of wrongdoing" by her husband, lawyer Jack King, and Alex Chapman, the man who filed the complaint against her.

Alex Chapman filed the complaint against Lori Douglas that led to the public inquiry. (CBC)

Chapman's complaint, filed with the CJC in July 2010, alleges King tried to pressure him into having sex with Douglas in 2003.

Chapman said when he retained King to handle his divorce, the lawyer showed him sexually explicit photos of a naked Douglas in various forms of bondage, with sex toys and performing oral sex.

King also directed Chapman, who is black, to see the photographs on a pornographic website where white women looked for black men to have sex.

Stepped away from duties

Douglas stepped away from her duties as a judge with the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench after Chapman's complaint was filed.

She insists that she had no knowledge of King's plans involving Chapman. It wasn't until June 2003 that King was "compelled to tell her what he has done," Douglas' statement said.

Both King and Douglas were lawyers and partners with a Winnipeg law firm at the time.

Douglas was then appointed a judge of the Court of Queen's Bench (family division) in 2005 and later, as an associate chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench (family division), in 2009.

The Manitoba Law Society conducted its own investigation into the allegations against King and at a hearing in 2011, King admitted to professional misconduct. He received a reprimand and was ordered to pay approximately $13,000 in costs but avoided disbarment or suspension.