Documents show a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry panel — the second struck after the first one quit — has quietly decided against looking into whether Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas was involved in sexually harassing a former client of her husband's before she became a judge.
The allegation featured prominently in the first round of hearings, which collapsed in acrimony amid accusations the committee was biased against the family court judge.
The decision to drop the complaint, according to a source, was made during a recent case conference call on the advice of the committee's independent counsel, Suzanne Cote.
The committee, however, will still deal with three other allegations related to the intimate images that could lead to Douglas's removal from the bench.
"The photos could be seen as inherently contrary to the image and concept of integrity of the judiciary," the complaint notice against Douglas states.
"The confidence of individuals appearing before the judge, or of the public in its justice system, could be undermined."
The committee will also probe allegations that Douglas failed to disclose information related to the pictures when she applied to become a judge, and that she altered her personal diary when she discovered the judicial council investigation into her conduct.
Her lawyers have long maintained the disciplinary proceedings amount to revictimizing a woman already hurt by her husband's betrayal in making public the images he took — a point they plan to make at the end of the month in preliminary motions to have the allegations dismissed.
"Public opinion has developed to recognize that victims of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images should not be punished or blamed, and that the perpetrators have committed morally reprehensible invasions of privacy that ought to be punished," her lawyers state in their notice of motion.
Documents show the new committee, which is supposed to begin hearings sometime toward the end of November, has also decided against probing suggestions Douglas abused her expense allowance because they are too "remote."
First raised a year ago by Manitoba Chief Justice Glenn Joyal, the allegation was that the suspended judge improperly obtained reimbursements designed to cover certain expenses.
The reimbursements, for massages, psychological counselling and air travel to Toronto to meet with her lawyers, followed her suspension in February 2011. Her lawyers had maintained the $6,400 in claims were all properly approved and related directly to the stress of the proceedings against her.
The Canadian Judicial Council, which handles complaints about federally appointed judges, began disciplinary hearings four years ago after Alexander Chapman complained that Douglas and her husband Jack King had sexually harassed him in 2003.
Those hearings fell apart when the committee's then-independent counsel, Guy Pratte, who opposed inclusion of the sexual harassment allegation and complained the five-judge panel was treating Douglas unfairly, resigned in August 2012. The panel itself resigned en masse a year ago.
In March, the Canadian Judicial Council struck a three-person inquiry committee — with Cote as independent counsel — to tackle the case anew.
Douglas is also asking the Federal Court of Appeal to end the inquiry on the grounds that she cannot get a fair shake. The judicial council is asking the Appeal Court to rule the courts have no authority over its proceedings — a position that has raised eyebrows in the legal community.
No date for the court hearing has been set.