Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Secret Letters in Nude Judge Case Show Conflict with Judicial Disciplinary Body

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Secret Letters in Nude Judge Case Show Conflict with Judicial Disciplinary Body

Article excerpt

Secret letters in nude judge case released

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TORONTO - Previously secret correspondence released Friday has shed light on the sudden resignation of a key player in the disciplinary hearing against a senior Manitoba judge whose husband posted naked photographs of her on the Internet.

The letters show the Canadian Judicial Council in a bitter dispute with Guy Pratte -- a lawyer hired as independent counsel by the hearing committee -- who had raised questions about the fairness of the proceedings against Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas.

Pratte had wanted the courts to decide whether the committee was treating Douglas shabbily with its aggressive cross-examination through its own lawyer of two witnesses favourable to Douglas.

The CJC, which maintains it is above judicial scrutiny, urged Pratte to withdraw his court application, arguing it would be "unseemly" for them to be seen to be at odds with each other.

"A grave difference of opinion exists between you and the Canadian Judicial Council," Norman Sabourin, the CJC's executive director, wrote Pratte on Aug. 24, 2012.

"The maintenance of the relationship between independent counsel and the Canadian Judicial Council cannot exist in these circumstances."

Pratte refused to withdraw his court application.

"I have no option but to resign as independent counsel effective immediately," Pratte responded days later.

"It is impossible for me to withdraw the (court) application, as you have asked me to do, without doing violence to what I believe...to be a sound position in principle and law, solely taken in the public interest."

The hearing into Douglas's conduct collapsed after Pratte and, later, the inquiry panel resigned.

The letters, which the CJC said it was releasing in the "public interest," appear to lend credence to bias assertions Douglas levelled at the CJC.

"If the committee is correct that it can cross-examine witnesses aggressively through its own counsel and...that independent counsel is powerless to clarify in a court of law the proper allocation of roles. …

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