Thursday, September 2, 2010

“The state does not belong in the bedrooms of the nation”

That according to Pierre Trudeau in 1967. And, I would suggest, neither does the CBC.

The CBC has been twisting itself in knots trying to justify why it “outed” Lori Douglas, associate chief justice of Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench (family division).

Justice Douglas had the misfortune of having a husband who, back in 2003 at least, didn’t quite get the concept of discretion when it came to one’s (private) sexual relationships and practices. As a consequence she has now been cast into the spotlight by the CBC for what are personal choices that have absolutely no bearing on her performance as a judge.

Is she a good judge? I have no idea. But she is not automatically a bad judge simply because she and her husband have been known to indulge in certain sexual activities when she removes her robes.

The CBC claims that they are justified in running the story because of “a lawyer's duty to a client; the duty of other legal professionals to report matters of concern to the relevant professional associations; the duty of a potential judge to disclose pertinent matters in advance of his or her selection; and the responsibilities of judicial selection committees as they make their choices.”

In other words, the CBC has determined that a person’s sexual proclivities are and should be “a matter of concern to … professional associations”. What utter bullshit. Unless the individual in question is breaking the law, anything else they do in their free time is no one else’s business but their own.

And don’t even get me started on the lowlife that took $25,000 to shut up in 2003 and 7 years later decided to go public.



Anonymous said...

I don't want to comment on the specifics of story surrounding Judge Douglas, but I would like to comment on this part of your post.

"Unless the individual in question is breaking the law, anything else they do in their free time is no one else’s business but their own."

While I'm sure that some people might agree with that statement, it's notable that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of Canada's Supreme Court does not. She was on The Agenda with Steve Pakin in July and he asked her about how the job of being a judge limits what they can do in their personal lives.

Specifically he asked her if she could show up at a Gay Pride Parade given it's controversial nature not too long ago. Justice McLachlin's answer was this: "I don't think a judge would do that."

Attendance at a gay pride parade certainly isn't illegal, but the being a judge isn't like any other job.

Canajun said...

Issachar - I understand Chief Justice McLachlin's point, but I'm not sure the comparison is apt. If an openly gay judge marched in a Gay Pride parade no one would care. But for non-gays, participating in a Pride parade is as much about making a political statement as anything else, and judges do want to be seen to be independent of political positioning of any sort - especially when one is a judge on the Supreme Court of Canada that is often called upon to rule on issues of charter rights, etc.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Justice McLachlin was quite definite. She didn't leave any wiggle room for gay pride attendance being different for a gay judge, she wasn't speaking only of higher court judges, and I'm sure that she would have considered such obvious possibilities.

It's not a perfectly comparable example of course, but no example would be unless she happened to be addressing this precise scenario.

In any case, as I said, my intention isn't to argue the details of Judge Douglas' story. I simply wanted to point out that it's a fallacy to say that a judge's private life is of no relevance to their role as a judge. On the contrary, it is of tremendous importance. The standard for judicial behaviour (even outside the court room) is far higher than mere legality.

Canajun said...

Issachar - Your point is taken. Judges are held to a higher standard. My point is should they be? Especially when it involves their private life and not their public position as judge. (Or lawyer, policeman, teacher, etc.)
I'm old enough to recall the debates about whether a gay man should be entrusted with the mayoralty of a major city, and some of the angst over inter-racial relationships among the powerful who "should be held to a higher standard".
My bottom line is as long as someone deals with me fairly and respectfully in their public position, what they do on their own time is of absolutely no interest or relevance to me.

Anonymous said...

Should they be?

Absolutely. While recognizing that judges are still human beings with human failings, it is entirely reasonable to hold them to the highest standard both inside and outside the court room as their actions have unavoidable affects on the public's faith in the justice system.