Committee 'almost fell from their chairs' over judge's nude photos: lawyer

Committee 'almost fell from their chairs' over judge's nude photos: lawyer

The argument for holding a formal inquiry into the conduct of Manitoba Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas began Tuesday with the Canadian Judicial Council's independent counsel, Suzanne Cote, saying the question is not whether Douglas can decide cases impartially "but whether the public believes she can."

Cote said some members of committee that reviewed Douglas's application to be a judge didn't know details of the nude photos, and "almost fell from their chairs" when their existence became public.

Cote also said then Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler was "completely unaware" when Douglas was appointed there were sexually explicit photos of her online.

Cote said because judges judge citizens, they cannot be considered 'normal' citizens themselves.

Judges "are a place apart from their fellow citizens," Cote said. "It's an 'exceptionally burdensome standard of conduct.'"

'Panel must see nude photos'

Cote also addressed Douglas's lawyer's argument that the panel members should not see the photos at issue.

Cote argued the CJC panel members must see the Douglas photos, because the evidence is the photos themselves.

She said she would show them only to the panel members, not to witnesses and she promised to put a sealing order in place to protect Douglas's privacy.

"We cannot erase the facts," Cote said. "These pictures have been in the public domain. You need to see them."

The disciplinary panel struck by the Canadian Judicial Council is examining whether the photos undermine the justice system and whether Douglas failed to disclose their existence before she was appointed a judge in 2005.

Nude photos should be returned to judge: Block

Douglas's lawyer, Sheila Block, earlier Tuesday wrapped up her arguments against holding an inquiry into Douglas's conduct by saying the panel should not look at the photos in question and that they should be returned to Douglas.

Block told the preliminary hearing that the photos are 'disproportionately invasive' and send women the wrong message.

"What message do you send to generations of women judges we will get?" she said.

She said viewing the photos or admitting them as evidence is a violation of the judge's privacy and hurts an innocent victim.

Block said the images were not released with Douglas's consent and are not vital to the tribunal's work.

The photos were taken by Douglas's late husband, who posted them on a website, and showed them to a client to try to entice him to have sex with his wife. Douglas's husband, Jack King, has since passed away.

Chief Justice Francois Rolland told Block in response, "We don't know the facts. What we know is what you are telling us."