REAL Women Files Conflict of Interest Complaint Against Activist Judge

Excerpted from the Jan 23, 2007, press release from REAL Women of Canada:

On July 17, 2006, REAL Women of Canada laid a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council about the conduct of Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry in the same-sex marriage case, which was handed down in June 2003. We stated in our complaint that his actions in that case gave rise to an apprehension of bias for a number of reasons, including the fact that Chief Justice McMurtry’s daughter was a lesbian living in a homosexual union at the time the case was argued…

Further, two weeks subsequent to the court’s decision, the Chief Justice partied with two of the litigants and a photograph of the Chief Justice and the litigants together is widely available on the internet.

In the Judicial Council’s letter to REAL Women dated December 19, 2006, the Council claimed:

… the sexual orientation of a judge’s children, and indeed the fact that a judge’s children are married or living in a common law relationship are not, in Chief Justice Scott’s view, indicative of any bias on the part of a judge.

The Council, however, was well aware that the issue before the Court was whether same-sex unions should be legally recognized, i.e., whether they should be recognized and acquire legal rights. That is, the case dealt specifically with the legal rights of same-sex unions – a matter which directly related to Judge McMurtry’s daughter’s own personal relationship…

The Council, however, concluded that there is no basis to support the view that Chief Justice McMurtry should have recused himself on the basis of the personal relationship of members of his family.

This conclusion, however, flies directly in the face of the guidelines of the Canadian Judicial Council set out in its document, “Ethical Principles for Judges,” (1998), Chapter 6:

Conflicts of Interest

  • Judges should disqualify themselves in any case in which they believe they will be unable to judge impartially.
  • Judges should disqualify themselves in any case in which they believe that a reasonable, fair minded and informed person would have a reasoned suspicion of conflict of interest between a judge’s personal interest (or that of a judge’s immediate family or close friends or associates) and a judge’s duty.
  • The potential for conflict of interest arises when the personal interest of the judge (or of those close to him or her) conflicts with the judge’s duty to adjudicate impartially. Judicial impartiality is concerned both with impartiality in fact and impartiality in the perception of a reasonable, fair minded and informed person.
  • … a judge … should disqualify him or herself if aware of any interest or relationship which, to a reasonable, fair minded and informed person would give rise to reasoned suspicion of lack of impartiality.
  • …a judge should disclose on the record anything which might support a plausible argument in favour of disqualification ….

It seems clear that the Judicial Council chose to ignore its own guidelines in order to protect Chief Justice McMurtry.

Continue reading at REAL Women of Canada…

This article was posted on Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 at 8:44 pm and is filed under "Civil Unions" & "Gay Marriage", Canada, Court Decisions & Judges. You can follow any updates to this article through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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