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Court urged to end disciplinary hearing in nude judge case on bias grounds

TORONTO - The senior Manitoba judge whose husband posted nude photographs of her on the Internet is asking the courts to order an end to an inquiry into her conduct on the grounds she cannot get a fair shake, documents filed Monday show.

In a notice to the Federal Court of Appeal, Justice Lori Douglas relies in part on previously secret correspondence between the Canadian Judicial Council and Guy Pratte, the independent counsel retained for the disciplinary hearing against her.

Pratte complained the panel hearing the case was treating Douglas unfairly and wanted to take the issue to court.

The council — which is responsible for hearing complaints against judges — refused to allow that, prompting the lawyer to resign.

Among other things, Pratte's resignation correspondence shows the council had threatened to fire him if he persisted in going to the courts.

The appeal notice argues Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley was wrong in his ruling last month to reject Douglas's claim that the council's dealings with Pratte "impairs the appearance of impartiality."

Last week, the judicial council filed its own notice of appeal, arguing Mosley had no right in the first place to review its actions.

The council began disciplinary hearings into Douglas's conduct 3 1/2 years ago after Alexander Chapman, an associate of her husband Jack King, complained the couple had sexually harassed him in 2003.

The hearing collapsed when Pratte, who was hired as independent counsel to ensure evidence in the case was presented fairly, resigned in August 2012.

In attempting to keep his resignation correspondence secret, the judicial council argued it was subject to solicitor-client privilege, a view Mosley rejected.

Despite that finding, Mosley said the CJC's assertion of a solicitor-client relationship with independent counsel did not of itself show any bias against Douglas.

Douglas, associate chief justice for Manitoba who remains under suspension, maintains that was another legal error.

"The CJC's interference in this case with the independent counsel's judicial review application — brought to ensure the fairness of the inquiry committee's proceedings — gives rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias," the notice states.

Her notice asks Federal Court of Appeal for a declaration the judicial council is biased against her.

The council is also appealing Mosley's ruling that independent counsel is not subject to solicitor-client privilege, alleging he relied on "irrelevant considerations" and ignored important evidence.

The judicial council essentially comprises the country's chief and associate chief Superior Court justices.

The five-judge inquiry panel resigned last fall, although the council has since struck a new three-person panel and is set to be ready to resume hearings.

The judicial council could recommend Douglas's removal from the bench but only Parliament can actually fire her.

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