POLITICS

Manitoba judge wants court to bar nude photographs from disciplinary hearing

11/07/2014 02:18 EST | Updated 01/07/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - The senior Manitoba judge who could be booted from the bench because her husband posted photographs of her posing nude on the Internet has taken new court action against the inquiry panel hearing her case.

In an application this week, Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas asks Federal Court to set aside the panel's decision to allow the images to be used as evidence against her. She also wants the court to put the decision on hold pending the outcome of the fight.

In the application obtained by The Canadian Press, Douglas's lawyers denounce the committee's findings as "perverse (and) capricious."

The committee was wrong to decide it can "determine which private, lawful, consensual sexual activities are 'demeaning to women,' thereby justifying removal of a judge."

It's not clear when Federal Court might hear the case, but the Canadian Judicial Council panel is supposed to begin the disciplinary hearings at the end of the month.

In preliminary motions heard in late October, the panel rejected Douglas's arguments to drop the case. The judge had also asked the committee to declare the intimate photographs inadmissible and return them without viewing them.

The pictures, she maintained, are highly prejudicial and the panel's viewing them would cause her irreparable harm.

In rejecting the request, the panel ruled the photographs are relevant to the allegations against her.

"It is difficult, if not impossible, to consider these allegations without a concrete first-hand appreciation of their nature and what they depict," the panel stated.

"Such characteristics are precisely at the core of the allegations which we are charged to investigate."

The panel did promise that the photographs would remain out of the public record even if they become evidence.

For her part, Douglas notes the images were disseminated without her knowledge — an act that will soon be outlawed — and that putting them before the inquiry would further violate her right to privacy and constitute an "invasion upon her autonomy, dignity and self-worth."

Federal Court, she says, should prohibit the committee or the judicial council from looking at or disseminating the photographs.

The allegations state the intimate photographs, taken by her late husband and distributed without her consent, could be seen as "inherently contrary to the image and concept of integrity" of the judiciary. Douglas is also alleged to have withheld information about the images when she applied to become a judge.

In its decision released this week, the committee rejected her request for a summary dismissal of the case.

"An evidentiary hearing is warranted and in the public interest," the panel decided.

"Given the nature of the issues and the evidence required, it cannot make the necessary findings of fact or apply the legal principles to reach a just and fair determination on a summary basis."

This is the second time Douglas has gone to Federal Court in an effort to derail the proceedings against her. An earlier decision, which was partly in her favour, is now before the Federal Court of Appeal.