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Manitoba judge sex inquiry begins hearing testimony

07/16/2012 06:07 EDT | Updated 09/15/2012 05:12 EDT
A man who says he was sexually harassed by a Manitoba judge took the stand Monday as a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry into the actions of Justice Lori Douglas began in Winnipeg.

Alex Chapman told the inquiry that Douglas' husband, lawyer Jack King, pointed him to Dark Cavern — a website where white women look for black men as sex partners — and mentioned a user name that was connected to nude photos.

Chapman is black, Douglas white.

King, who was hired as Chapman's divorce lawyer, has admitted to giving nude photographs of Douglas to Chapman in an attempt to persuade him to have sex with her in 2003.

The pictures showed Douglas nude in various forms of bondage, with sex toys and performing oral sex.

Whether Douglas knew what her husband was up to and should she have disclosed the story when she was applying to be a judge are the central issues in the CJC inquiry.

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

Douglas answered "no" on her application.

The council will determine whether she should be removed from the bench — a rare move in Canada.

Douglas has filed documents with the inquiry in which she says her husband posted the sexually explicit photos online and shared them with Chapman without her knowledge.

She has denied all charges against her and says she never harassed or touched Chapman in any way.

Douglas and King were both lawyers and partners at a Winnipeg firm at the time.

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

The CJC alleges she did not disclose that information on her judicial application.

'It was making me sick'

Chapman filed a complaint about King to his law firm in 2003. King and Chapman's lawyer, Ian Histed, negotiated a confidentiality agreement in which Chapman received $25,000 in exchange for agreeing to delete all emails and photographs sent by King, as well as agreeing not to seek legal action or speak publicly about the case.

Chapman went public seven years later with the allegations, saying he continued to be haunted by what happened and needed to launch a complaint.

The Court of Queen's Bench recently ordered Chapman to pay back the $25,000.

During Monday's proceedings, independent counsel Kirsten Crain challenged Chapman's claim that he was ever haunted by the experience.

She suggested instead that Chapman met King a number of times because he was interested in the sex talk.

Crain asked Chapman if he knew King had directed him to a sex site, to which he answered "yes." She then asked Chapman, "Why in the world would you log into this site?"

Chapman said he felt pressured and bullied by King, and accused King of using the legal case as an excuse to lure him.

"I don't know why I went to the site. I just wanted a divorce," Chapman said.

"He keeps coming after me to do more. It was making me sick. He was brain washing me with all this."

In addition to filing a complaint with the CJC, Chapman filed a complaint against King with the Manitoba Law Society.

The society conducted an investigation into the allegations and in 2011 he was given a reprimand and ordered to pay approximately $13,000 in costs. However, King avoided disbarment or suspension.

Douglas, King to testify

The council's panel of judges and lawyers will hear from witnesses from Monday until Friday, and again next week.

Douglas and King, as well as several senior Manitoba judges and lawyers, are among 14 witnesses who are expected to testify or provide evidence over the next two weeks.

Douglas was not present as the hearings got underway Monday. She will be called to testify late next week.

Chapman has been granted limited standing at the inquiry, meaning he is receiving funding to hire a lawyer to question Douglas, King and Histed.

Appointment process to be examined

David Asper, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, said the inquiry must look at whether Douglas properly disclosed the issue of the photos when she was vying for the judicial appointment.

"That leads to the notorious question that's asked of judges, which is sort of: 'Is there anything else that we should be concerned about?' And she responded no," Asper said.

King has said that in his dealings with Chapman, he acted without the knowledge of his wife.

Douglas has denied any wrongdoing and has said she should not be penalized for her husband's actions, which she called "acts of unimaginable betrayal, in pursuit of a mad and undisclosed fantasy."

In a statement filed by her lawyers last month, Douglas named several people who were allegedly aware of the nude photos, including the chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench.

Asper said the Douglas inquiry will expose how judges are appointed in Canada, including what kinds of details prospective judges have to disclose.

"We're going to get a very clear window into the process generally," he said. "It really gets into the question of how much or what has to be disclosed by somebody who wants to be a judge?

"How deep are we going to go into their personal, private and perfectly legal lives?"

Harbinger of debate

Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, agreed that "a potential positive outcome of this case might be if the additional scrutiny leads to greater transparency" in the process of appointing judges.

"The real question most of us are waiting to see addressed is just how broad or narrow the inquiry will allow the scope of this to become," he said.

"So certainly, whether or not there was a statement that was not accurate, not appropriate, on the form that one fills out when you apply to be considered to be a judge, that's clearly an issue.

"But it [could be] broadened to include potential deliberations by the committee that recommends federally appointed judges, by members of the court that are consulted, or others that are consulted in vetting or assessing potential candidates."

"I actually think this is going to be a harbinger of other discussions that are going to keep cropping up as we move into a world where so much of our life is captured in our interactions digitally or electronically — that isn't like someone's memories in a high school yearbook [but] something that someone can Google and look up."

It could be photos on a website for some, or it might be email exchanges or a post or a tweet, or various things that happen before one is appointed as a judge, Sossin said.

"Judges have a private life, are entitled to a private life, [but it is ] also true when people encounter judges even outside their judicial role, they are still looking to those individuals to uphold the highest standards," he said.

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