Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lori Douglas
WINNIPEG — She has remained silent while sordid allegations about her personal life have put her professional career in jeopardy.
But Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Lori Douglas is finally speaking out in advance of a Canadian Judicial Council inquiry which will decide if she is fit to remain behind the bench.
Douglas filed a detailed response Thursday to the official "notice of allegations" which have been laid against her.
Her lawyers say this is her long overdue chance to clear the air about a case that has made international headlines.
"(Douglas) has been faced with tremendous embarrassment and humiliation as her bench, the bar and members of the public have been presented with one-sided distorted accounts of the events relevant to the complaints raised against her," the nine-page document states. "This response represents the first time (her) account of the events in question will be heard."
The Canadian Judicial Council filed its own paperwork Thursday, outlining the four specific charges that Douglas must answer to when the judicial panel is expected to begin hearing the case next month.
Douglas saves some of her harshest criticism for her own husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, who admits handing out nude photos of Douglas to one of his former clients, Alex Chapman. The incidents occurred in 2003 before Douglas was a judge.
"The notice of allegation states that Ms. Douglas knowingly participated with King in the sexual harassment of Chapman. This charge against (her) is a complete fabrication. She has been the victim of wrongdoing by both her husband and Chapman," her lawyers say.
"Her husband, in acts of unimaginable betrayal, in pursuit of mad and undisclosed fantasy, solicited Chapman to have sex with Ms. Douglas. King emailed Chapman intimate photos of his wife and posted certain other intimate photos on a website to which he directed Chapman, all without any knowledge of Ms. Douglas."
Douglas further accuses Chapman of trying to use her husband’s "aberrant behaviour" as an opportunity to extort money from him. She called allegations she met twice with Chapman for a sexual purpose "complete fabrications."
"As Ms. Douglas had no knowledge of her husband’s scheme and fantasy, she could not know anything about Chapman’s reaction," the documents state. "Chapman was a willing participant in this despicable scheme."
Douglas has been on leave from the bench since August 2010 while the CJC investigation has been ongoing. She was appointed to the bench in 2005. One of the questions by the selection committee was whether there was anything in her past or present that could reflect negatively on her or the judiciary.
Douglas answered "No," which now forms the basis of one of the CJC allegations.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Douglas blasted that charge, saying the facts of what happened "were well known in the legal community" and even by the judicial committee which appointed her - right down to details about the nude photo which Douglas describes as "graphic, explicit pictures including bondage.". Even the Chief Justice of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench was aware of the issue and supported her bid to become a judge, the documents state.
"Senior members of the bench and bar made it clear to Ms. Douglas that her husband’s conduct did not reflect negatively on her. She was urged by them to apply for judicial appointment," her lawyers say. Douglas believed the nude photos of her had been destroyed as a result of the 2003 settlement between King and Chapman and had no reason to think otherwise.
"She did not believe she was responsible or accountable for the wrongdoing of a family member who had victimized her," her lawyers say. "The disclosure required by the judicial application form never required applicants to disclose private lawful sexual activity and such actions are not disclosed."
Douglas also takes issue with allegations she can no longer serve in her capacity as a judge because of the public availability of the photos. She said Chapman is to blame for the exposure they have received as a result of violating the 2003 confidentiality agreement he struck with King.
"The notice of allegations raises the issue of public confidence in the judicial system. Our system of justice, including the process for disciplining judges, does not operate on the basis where the victim of wrongdoing by others is punished. The system of justice would be brought into disrepute if the victim of wrongdoing were punished," her lawyers state.
On the final allegation, Douglas denies failing to fully disclose all relevant information to the CJC review panel. She admits to an oversight regarding one piece of evidence - some changed wording in her seized day planner - but blames it on a memory slip rather than anything malicious.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 15, 2012