Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The serious side of the Manitoba judge's sex scandal

OK, I admit my first reaction was to shuffle this story off to the less serious part of my presence on the blogosphere. However, now that the judge in question, Lori Douglas, has had to step down, it's worth a serious look at whether or not this is just cause for her removal. After all, it seems that the salacious photos were posted to the Internet without her knowledge, and in fact she may not have been aware of their existence at the time she was appointed to the bench in 2005. Nonetheless, some legal scholars seem to think that's enough reason to ruin her career:

An Ottawa legal expert said that even if Douglas, who was appointed a judge in 2005, was the unwitting victim of a scheme, the presence of the photos on the internet raises issues about her ability to perform as a judge.

"If pictures of you naked end up on an internet site, it's quite difficult to say you have the credibility to be a judge," said S├ębastien Grammond, dean of civil law at the University of Ottawa.

Grammond doubts that Douglas would have been appointed a judge if she had disclosed the fact that there were nude photographs of her on the internet in her application.

Source. The legal community is not unanimous, though:

Bryan Schwartz, a law professor at the University of Manitoba, agreed. He said the existence of embarrassing material on the Internet shouldn't disqualify somebody from being a judge if they're the innocent victim of a marital breach of trust.

"It double-victimizes you. People should have sympathy for you. It's a pretty reprehensible thing to do to a spouse," he said. "It sounds to me like people should be very slow to come to any judgments about this."

"If people were doing something that wasn't unlawful and somebody breaches that and blabs it to the public, I don't see how that disqualifies you from being a judge."

Source. For what it's worth, I agree with Schwartz. After all, if we accept Grammond's argument, where do you draw the line? Suppose, for instance, that someone posts Photoshopped images of you online? After all, the viewers probably wouldn't know whether they were real or not. Does the fact that someone in the courtroom might conceivably have seen those pics undermine your credibility as a judge?

Of course, if the allegations against Douglas' husband are true, there's good reason to go after him. But should Douglas suffer for her husband's follies? I don't think so.

Edited to add: Brian Oakley at Just Damn Stupid does make an interesting point:

Now. If King paid Mr. xDNA $25,000 to keep his mouth shut, and that action is in fact extortion – did the Judge know that idiot husband caved to extortion?

It is an uncomfortable, but important question.

For it can not be appropriate to have a Judge willing to turn a blind-eye to such an infraction of the Criminal Code of Canada.

On a human level, I sympathize 100% with Ms. Douglas, but can we have Judges ignoring criminal activity?

Hmm. It does complicate the situation...

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