It was announced on Thursday that Madam Justice Lori Douglas, referred to as Canada's "bondage judge," will face a public inquiry to determine whether she is fit to continue as a Superior Court judge.
The unsavoury events leading to the inquiry unraveled last fall when Douglas, the Associate Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench, Family Division, stepped down from her post while the Canadian Judicial Council investigated a complaint filed against her involving her husband, prominent family law lawyer Jack King. The complainant was Alexander Chapman, age 45, originally from Trinidad, who retained Mr. King to act for him in his divorce proceedings in 2002.
At the time, Ms. Douglas and Mr. King were partners at a prestigious Winnipeg law firm. Mr. Chapman alleged that after Mr. King completed his divorce, King befriended him and tried to persuade Mr. Chapman to engage in a sexual tryst with his wife, Ms. Douglas.
Mr. King gave Mr. Chapman photographs of his wife and a password to a website that caters to those who have an interest in interracial sex. The photos of Douglas portrayed her as nude, except for bondage regalia, and participating in a sex act.
When Mr. Chapman complained to Mr. King's law firm, King paid Mr. Chapman $25,000 in exchange for Chapman's agreement to not sue him or the firm and to destroy the photos.
Jack King resigned from the firm after the payment was made.
Fast forward to September 2010 when Mr. Chapman reneged on the 2003 agreement and sued lawyer King, Justice Douglas and King's law firm, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, for sexual harassment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, seeking $67 million dollars.
Chapman had not, in fact, destroyed the photos and gave some of them to CBC TV and the Manitoba Law Society. The CBC declined to publish them.
In response, Mr. King brought an application to the court to dismiss Mr. Chapman's lawsuit on two grounds: that Chapman had signed an agreement in 2003 giving up his right to sue and that Chapman had waited too long (seven years) to bring his claim.
The Court agreed with Mr. King and threw out Chapman's case. Earlier, Mr. Chapman had abandoned the lawsuits against Justice Douglas and Mr. King's former law firm. The Court also ordered that Chapman cease any further dissemination of the photos, however, earlier this year, the website abovethelaw.com published the salacious photos (they have since been taken down and replaced with written descriptions of the images).
Mr. King's lawyer explained that Mr. King posted the photos on the internet without his wife's knowledge and consent while he was suffering from depression. King also admitted to arranging what Chapman referred to as a "first date" with Ms. Douglas: an invitation to join King and his wife on a vacation in Cancun in 2002. Chapman declined the offer.
In April 2011, Mr. King plead guilty to sexual harassment for cajoling his former client to have sex with his wife. Typically, a Law Society disciplinary hearing for sexual harassment will lead to a suspension of a lawyer's license to practice law, however, in Mr. King's case, he received a reprimand and costs of $13,650.00.
Mr. Chapman's life has also been difficult, post-lawsuit. He was fired from Great West Life Insurance where he worked as a computer programmer. He has also had difficulty finding a lawyer to assist him with his case; Chapman is no stranger to the courts, however. He has been convicted for arson, theft, and uttering death threats. He has also been a party in nine other lawsuits including one action that he brought against the Winnipeg Police Department.
In the meantime, the Winnipeg Free Press challenged the Law Society to disclose what they knew in 2003 and what steps they took then to protect the public. A spokesperson for the Law Society revealed they were aware of Mr. King's conduct, but did nothing because King was not practicing law at the time of their investigation.
Mr. Chapman discredits any alleged Law Society investigation of Jack King, citing the fact that neither he nor the lawyer who negotiated the 2003 agreement between him, King and his law firm were ever interviewed.
Pubic inquires into judicial complaints are a rare event in Canada and are ordered when the complaint against a judge is serious enough to warrant a judge's removal from office. The inquiry results are then forwarded to the Minister of Justice who, in accordance with Canada's Constitution can only be removed after a joint address by Parliament.
Does Judge Douglas' private life render her unfit to continue as a judge or is she a victim of her husband's breach of her privacy? Is it appropriate for the Judicial Council to scrutinize a judge's morality?
In my view, it will be very difficult for Madam Justice Douglas to return to her court duties. Respect for the court and its judicial officers is a cornerstone of Canadian justice. Snickers and snide remarks can only undermine her judicial authority.
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