Manitoba judge sex inquiry hearings underway

The Canadian Judicial Council has begun an inquiry into the conduct of a Manitoba judge at the centre of a sex controversy.

Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas could be removed from bench

The Canadian Judicial Council has begun an inquiry into the conduct of a Manitoba judge at the centre of a sex controversy.

Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench is the subject of a complaint by a Winnipeg man who alleges that she sexually harassed him.

Douglas has denied the claims, calling them "a complete fabrication." 

The Canadian Judicial Council will begin its inquiry on Monday into the conduct of Lori Douglas, an associate chief justice with the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, based on a complaint filed in 2010 by a man who alleged that she sexually harassed him. ((CBC))

The council, which has the power to remove a judge from the bench, began its first round of hearings in the Douglas case Monday morning.

Monday's hearing was largely procedural. The inquiry committee is expected to announce on Tuesday if it will grant Chapman standing at the hearings.

If that standing is approved, Chapman could have a lawyer represent him, ask questions and make submissions.

Two other parties are seeking intervenor status at the inquiry, including a Winnipeg blogger, the CBC's Marisa Dragani reports.

It is very rare in Canada for a judge to be removed from the bench. Douglas's case marks the ninth time that a public inquiry is being held into a judge's conduct, but it is the first inquiry to be centred on a judge's private life.

The first round of inquiry hearings will run from Monday until Thursday. Hearings are also set for July 16-20 and July 23-27. A preliminary hearing was held in May.

Man says he was pressured to have sex

Alex Chapman, who filed the complaint, alleges that Douglas's husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, tried to pressure him into having sex with Douglas in 2003.

Chapman has said that when he retained King to handle his divorce, the lawyer showed him photos of Douglas naked in various forms of bondage, with sex toys and performing oral sex. The photos also appeared on a pornographic website where white women looked for black men as sex partners.

Chapman has alleged that he met with King and Douglas twice at a local restaurant, but he never had sex with Douglas.

Alex Chapman told CBC News in 2010 that he was sexually harassed by Douglas and her husband, lawyer Jack King, in 2003. ((CBC))

Both King and Douglas were lawyers and partners with the firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman at the time of the incidents alleged by Chapman.

Douglas was appointed to the Court of Queen's Bench (Family Division) in 2005 and named associate chief justice four years later.

She stepped away from her duties as a sitting judge after Chapman's complaint was filed in 2010.

2nd complaint to be examined

In a written response to the judicial council's notice of allegation, Douglas's lawyers say she had no knowledge of her husband's plans involving Chapman.

"The notice of allegation states that Ms. Douglas knowingly participated with King in the sexual harassment of Chapman. This charge against Douglas … is a complete fabrication. She has been the victim of wrongdoing by both her husband (King) and Chapman," the statement says.

Meanwhile, the council announced on Sunday that it will examine a separate, anonymous complaint involving "intimate sexual" photographs of Douglas and other women.

Council decision

Read the ruling from the Canadian Judicial Council inquiry committee on the validity of the second complaint (PDF).

Douglas's lawyers had argued against allowing the complaint, which consisted of two electronic discs provided by "an anonymous source." Her lawyers had also argued that the discs should be ruled inadmissible.

But the inquiry committee ruled that the discs should be considered as a valid complaint.

The committee also said the complaint "ought to be admitted in evidence in these proceedings for viewing by members of the committee and its legal counsel," its decision states in part. The complaint does not make any specific allegations, but brings to light material that "might raise concerns" about Judge Douglas's conduct, the committee ruled.

However, the photos will not be publicly disclosed unless it is expressly authorized by the inquiry committee.