Justice Robin Camp tries to block judicial watchdog from deliberating his case

Justice Robin Camp, whose conduct during a 2014 sex assault trial led to a recommendation he be removed from the bench, has asked the Federal Court to temporarily stop the Canadian Judicial Council from deliberating his fate.

Taxpayers on the hook for legal bills in judge's fight to make a last in-person plea for his job

Federal Court Justice Robin Camp wants another chance to make his case, in person, to the Canadian Judicial Council. (Todd Korol/Canadian Press)

Justice Robin Camp, whose conduct during a sex assault trial in 2014 led to a recommendation he be removed from the bench, is taking even more unprecedented steps to try to keep his job.

Camp has asked the Federal Court to temporarily stop the Canadian Judicial Council from deliberating his fate. 

In November, a council inquiry committee recommended Camp be removed from the bench over his comments during a trial he presided over as an Alberta provincial court judge. Camp is now a Federal Court judge, although he is not currently hearing cases. 

The judges and senior lawyers on the committee concluded that Camp blamed the 19-year-old complainant for the alleged rape, displayed ignorance and antipathy for sexual assault legislation and was disrespectful to the Crown prosecutor.

At one point during the trial, Camp asked the woman, who testified she'd been raped at a party, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"

On Thursday, Camp's lawyer will argue in Federal Court that the judicial council must stop its work on the judge's disciplinary case until the court can rule on his earlier request to force the entire council to hear from him in person. 

The council has turned down that request three times, saying Camp has already "been fully and fairly heard," nothing has changed since his public hearing and that he has been encouraged to submit any additional arguments in writing. 

Camp wishes to discuss acquittal of Wagar

On Feb. 6, Camp's lawyer Frank Addario again asked the Canadian Judicial Council if he could make additional oral submissions in light of the recent second acquittal of Alexander Scott Wagar, who was the accused in the original trial that led to Camp's legal troubles.

Camp's motion doesn't expand on how Wagar's second acquittal alters what the inquiry committee heard at the original public hearing. 

"Council has taken judicial notice of the Alberta provincial court decision of 31 January 2017 in Wagar," wrote the CJC's executive director Norman Sabourin. "Justice Camp is invited to make written submission strictly limited to the issue of the 'significance of Mr. Wagar's second acquittal and Judge LeGrandeur's reasoning.'"

Camp responded last week with an application to the Federal Court, asking it to review the judicial council's decision to deny him one more oral hearing. On Tuesday, Camp filed a motion requesting the court also suspend "the deliberations and decision-making" of the council.

In his arguments, Camp pointed out that five of the 23 judges who make up the Canadian Judicial Council dissented from the decision to deny him another hearing. 

"It is inappropriate to conclude that oral submissions would be pointless because nothing could be said that has not already been said. We do not have the gift of clairvoyance," they noted in their dissent. 

"The disagreement within the quorum demonstrates that the application raises serious, cognizable natural justice issues," Addario said.

For its part, the office of Canada's Attorney General opposes Camp's request for a stay, saying public interest favours quick decisions on whether a judge is fit for duty. It also expressed support for the CJC being impartial and fair.

Since the Canadian Judicial Council's creation in 1971, no judge has gone to such lengths to keep his job. There have only been two other cases where the judicial council recommended Parliament remove a judge from the bench and in both cases the men resigned almost immediately.

Ottawa University law professor Adam Dodek said the protracted proceedings are a result of an overly complicated judicial disciplinary regime. 

"The additional steps that you're seeing being taken by Justice Camp are just him availing himself of all the different procedures that are available. Until such time as the government turns its mind and addresses this, we're going to see more and more judges take advantage of the rights they currently have," Dodek told CBC News.

Public paying Camp's legal tab

Last summer, the federal Department of Justice quietly consulted the public on how to reform how judges are disciplined. Among the many proposed reforms was to trim the purse strings.

Just like any other judge facing discipline, Camp's ongoing legal battle is being paid for by taxpayers through the Commission for Federal Judicial Affairs. 

Dodek said he supports some financial support — to a point. 

"I understand why the taxpayer should pay for the immediate judicial conduct proceedings. But beyond that, when a judge challenges the legitimacy of those proceedings in court, the normal rules of court should apply, which is you pay for your own lawyer and it's up to the judge to determine at the end of the day who wins, who loses and who should pay for lawyers' fees."

CBC News asked the commission for a tally of Camp's legal bills so far but received no response.