WINNIPEG - The controversy over sexual harassment and nude photos involving Lori Douglas was known within Manitoba's legal community before she was appointed a judge, her husband testified Wednesday.
"I was told by some of my friends ... that they were hearing from people versions of events, sometimes quite lurid," Jack King told a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry. "It was quite well-known."
The inquiry is examining whether Douglas, an associate chief justice in the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, should lose her job because of a controversy that began with her husband's harassment of a client.
In 2003, when Douglas and King were family law lawyers at the same firm, King uploaded sexually explicit photos of Douglas, some of which showed her in bondage gear or performing sex acts, to a website dedicated to interracial sex. He also emailed photos to a client named Alexander Chapman 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. On her application form, she answered "no" when asked whether there was anything in her past which could embarrass her or the judiciary.
Douglas, who has yet to testify, has said in documents filed to the inquiry that the matter was widely-known in the legal community, including among the judges who participated in screening her application.
King testified Wednesday other lawyers had come to him in 2003 and 2004 to talk about the controversy — a year or more before Douglas was appointed a judge. But he faced questions from the lawyer leading the inquiry, Guy Pratte, about whether the story had been watered down.
Pratte pointed to letters between the Law Society of Manitoba and King in 2005, when King had resumed practising law following a mental breakdown after the initial scandal. When King was asked for details about the controversy, his lawyer, Bill Gange, replied by letter.
Gange told the law society about the harassment of Chapman, but did not mention the nude photos of Douglas. The letter also said King, Chapman and Douglas had only met once, when they had in fact met twice briefly for drinks.
"Your lawyer had chosen not to tell the full story," Pratte fired at King.
King replied that he could not answer for Gange, but that not mentioning the explicit photos was an attempt to respect Douglas's privacy.
"I think it shows a certain delicacy on his part," King said.
Documents filed with the inquiry last month have also raised questions about whether officials knew in 2005 that explicit photos of Douglas had been on the Internet.
A journal entry listed from Francois Giroux, an adviser to then federal justice minister Irwin Cotler, does not mention the sexually explicit photos. But it does mention the harassment claim. It also seems to note that the story, at least in broad strokes, was well-known in the legal community.
"Husband, let go from the same firm as Mrs. Douglas. Allegations of mental health troubles," the journal entry, handwritten in French, says.
"Offered to a client the services of his wife without her knowledge. Mrs. stayed with. Made the round of the profession. Situation resolved. Counselling, psychological."
King pleaded guilty to professional misconduct last year for harassing Chapman and was ordered to pay the Law Society of Manitoba $13,650, but retains his licence to practice law.
King and Douglas have maintained all along that Douglas never knew what her husband was doing until the matter blew up in 2003. The couple have remained married.
Chapman's lawyer, Rocco Galati, put to King that Douglas must have been involved.
"I suggest to you, sir, that you're lying," Galati said.
"My wife did not know what I was doing," King replied, pausing between each word for emphasis.
As he did in his disciplinary hearing last year, King apologized for his actions, at least as far as they affected his wife.
"How could you do this to your wife?" Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, asked.
"I really don't know. It was just total self-gratification," King replied.
"A part of her will never forgive me."
King offered no apology to Chapman. He said he only pleaded guilty to professional misconduct because his actions were wrong in law. But he insisted Chapman was a willing participant in his sex talk in 2003.
"He said 'Look, don't you worry. I'm game, I'm up for this,'" King testified.
King said Chapman's complaint and demand for compensation in 2003 amounted to "blackmail."
"He was threatening very adverse publicity," King said.
Douglas is scheduled to be the last witness to testify at the inquiry, which was scheduled to wrap up this week. But because only four of 14 witnesses have testified so far, the inquiry is likely to reconvene in late September for another week.