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Notice of a Hearing into a Complaint about the Conduct of Justice of the Peace Paul Welsh

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Note: On November 28, 2018, the Hearing Panel ordered that the publication of information that might identify the names of individuals involved in the underlying court proceedings form which this complaint arises is prohibited.  The Order is posted on the Public Hearings Decisions webpage.

Pursuant to section 11(15) of the Justices of the Peace Act, R.S.O. 1990, C. J.4, the Justices of the Peace Review Council has commenced a formal hearing into a complaint about the conduct of Justice of the Peace Paul Welsh of the Ontario Court of Justice.

The Hearing Panel is considering whether the conduct summarized below, and set out in more detail in the Notice of Hearing, dated March 15, 2018, constituted judicial misconduct:

On dates between April and October of 2017, His Worship demonstrated a pattern of disregard for the administration of justice that included failing to comply with the administrative processes in place in the Hamilton Courthouse for court applications; accepting and deciding on applications outside of the courtroom, off the record, and in the absence of the underlying court documents; granting a reopening for a Part III offence when it was not permitted by law; and, demonstrating actual or perceived preferential treatment towards particular legal representatives.

The hearing commenced at 10:00 a.m. on November 28 and continued on November 29, 2018. After Presenting Counsel presented his evidence, the Hearing Panel directed Presenting Counsel to have two additional judicial witnesses provide evidence who may have relevant information about the events in question.  The November 30, 2018 hearing date was vacated.

On January 31, 2019, Presenting Counsel informed the Hearing Panel that interviews of the two witnesses, who are the former Regional Senior Justice of the Peace and the former Local Administrative Justice of the Peace, have been conducted and disclosure of the contents of the interviews have been disclosed to His Worship.

Evidence in the ongoing hearing was scheduled to continue on May 8, 2019, and the parties were to return on May 30, 2019 to present closing submissions in respect of that hearing. On May 2, 2019, counsel for His Worship brought a motion to adjourn the May 8, 2019 hearing date. On consent of Presenting Counsel, the Hearing Panel granted the motion and vacated the May 30th date.

The hearing continued on June 28, 2019. The Hearing Panel heard evidence from His Worship Brett Kelly, the former Regional Senior Justice of the Peace and His Worship Mitchell Baker, the former Local Administrative Justice of the Peace.

Following the testimony of these witnesses, Mr. Ian Smith indicated that this completed the evidence of Presenting Counsel. Counsel for His Worship confirmed that he would not be calling any evidence.

The hearing was adjourned to August 22, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. at Neesons Reporting, 77 King Street West, Suite 2020, Toronto for oral submissions on the evidence. Counsel will provide written submissions to the Hearing Panel by August 9, 2019.

Background:

Pursuant to section 11.1(1) of the Act, the Honourable Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve, Chair of the Council, has established a Hearing Panel of members of the Council consisting of a judge who shall chair the panel, a justice of the peace, and a community member.

The decision to order a hearing was taken following the investigation of the complaints in accordance with the Review Council’s complaints process. A three-person complaints committee, consisting of a judge, a justice of the peace, and a community or lawyer member, investigated the complaints and ordered that a formal hearing be held.

The Hearing Panel granted a request by counsel for an order for a pre-hearing conference which took place prior to the start of the hearing. A second pre-hearing conference took place after the second Notice of Hearing was filed in relation to the additional complaints.

Pursuant to section 11.1 of the Act, the Hearing Panel may dismiss the complaint, with or without a finding that it is unfounded, or if it upholds the complaint, it may decide upon any of the following sanctions singly or in combination:

  • warn the justice of the peace;
  • reprimand the justice of the peace;
  • order the justice of the peace to apologize to the complainant or to any other person;
  • order the justice of the peace to take specified measures such as receiving education or treatment, as a condition of continuing to sit as a justice of the peace;
  • suspend the justice of the peace with pay, for any period; or,
  • suspend the justice of the peace without pay, but with benefits, for a period up to thirty days.

The Council may also make a recommendation to the Attorney General that the justice of the peace be removed from office. This sanction cannot be combined with any other sanction. Under section 11.2(1) of the Act, a justice of the peace may be removed from office only by order of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Two new complaints about the conduct of His Worship Welsh were ordered to a hearing. (For information on those allegations, please see the web page containing information about the second hearing process.)

On April 9, 2018, Presenting Counsel argued a motion requesting that new allegations contained in the Notice of Hearing, dated February 28, 2019, be combined with the ongoing hearing into the allegations contained in the Notice of Hearing dated March 15, 2018 (the “ongoing hearing”), or that the proceedings should be heard consecutively.

Counsel for His Worship filed a cross-motion arguing that the Hearing Panel has no jurisdiction to hear some of the allegations in the Notice of Hearing dated February 28, 2019 because these allegations were not included in the written complaint and should not have been considered by the complaints committee. Counsel for His Worship also sought an order that the hearing into the allegations contained in the Notice of Hearing dated February 28, 2019 be put before a different Hearing Panel.

Following counsels’ submissions, the Hearing Panel made an Order, with written reasons to follow, that the proceedings be heard consecutively pursuant to section 9.1 of the Statutory Powers Procedure Act. The Hearing Panel will hear evidence and render a disposition in the ongoing hearing before proceeding to hear the allegations contained in the Notice of Hearing dated February 28, 2019.

The Hearing Panel deferred argument on His Worship’s cross-motion pending the completion of the ongoing hearing.

Presenting Counsel are Mr. Scott Fenton and Mr. Ian Smith, Fenton Smith Barristers.

Counsel for His Worship are Mr. Eugene Bhattacharya and Ms. Mary Waters Rodriguez.

For general information, contact: Ms. Marilyn E. King, Registrar, telephone 416-327-5672.