Lead lawyer in Manitoba judge sex inquiry quits

The lead lawyer in the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry looking into a sex scandal involving a Manitoba judge has resigned.

The lead lawyer in the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry looking into a sex scandal involving a Manitoba judge has resigned.

The CJC announced Monday that it has accepted the resignation of Guy Pratte, who was appointed as the independent counsel in the inquiry looking into the conduct of Justice Lori Douglas.

The inquiry has been examining whether Douglas should be removed from the bench over nude photos of her that were posted online by her husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, and over allegations she was involved with King'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.

Norman Sabourin, the CJC's executive director, would not say why Pratte resigned.

"The important thing now is for us to appoint a new independent counsel," Sabourin told CBC News.

"We want to make sure that the process is not delayed by reason of the change of the person in that position."

Photos posted online

In 2003, Douglas and King were family law lawyers at the same firm when King uploaded the sexually explicit photos, which showed Douglas in bondage gear and performing sex acts, on a website dedicated to interracial sex.

King also emailed photos to Chapman, who had hired King as his divorce lawyer, and asked him to have sex with Douglas.

Chapman complained to the law firm and King settled the matter within weeks by paying Chapman $25,000 to return all the photos and to never discuss the matter.

Chapman broke that deal in 2010 and complained to the judicial council, insisting Douglas was part of the sexual harassment.

Among the allegations before the inquiry is that Douglas did not disclose the matter when she applied to be a judge. She applied three times before finally being accepted in 2005.

The inquiry, which held hearings earlier this summer, is also examining whether the very existence of the photos precludes Douglas from continuing in her job.

No date has been set yet for the inquiry to continue hearings.

Was critical of panel's lawyer

During the inquiry's latest round of hearings in July, Pratte was critical of how George Macintosh, the lawyer acting on behalf of the inquiry panel, questioned King.

Both Pratte and Sheila Block, the lawyer representing Douglas, said Macintosh was being too aggressive in his questioning of King.

Pratte said the inquiry panel, which includes the chief justices of Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, overstepped its bounds by becoming involved in a hearing while also presiding over it.

At the time, Pratte told the panel that if Macintosh's line of questioning did not change, he would remove himself from the inquiry altogether.

Block demanded that the inquiry panel resign based on Macintosh's questioning, which she said showed the panel was biased against Douglas.

Earlier this month, Pratte asked the Federal Court not to end the inquiry, but to prevent Macintosh from asking any more questions and strike his previous questions from the record.

When asked if Pratte's resignation will shake people's confidence in the justice system, Sabourin said that's always a concern.

"I think we want to make sure that the public has confidence in their judiciary," he said.

"The process we have in place is designed to make sure that there is public confidence in the judiciary."

With files from the CBC's Leslie McLaren