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Notice of a Hearing into a Complaint about the Conduct of Justice of the Peace Dianne Ballam

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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 will hold a formal hearing into a complaint about the conduct of Justice of the Peace Dianne Ballam of the Ontario Court of Justice.

The Hearing Panel will consider whether the alleged conduct, as summarized below and set out more fully in the Notice of Hearing, occurred and constituted judicial misconduct:

While holding judicial office, Her Worship provided legal services to three individuals, and appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice, the Superior Court of Justice and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on behalf of these individuals. In doing so, Her Worship engaged in a pattern of conduct that she knew or ought to have known could give rise to a real or perceived conflict of interest.  She failed to comply with and respect the legal, ethical and professional obligations required of a licensed professional and a member of the judiciary. Considered cumulatively and/or individually, Her Worship’s conduct leads to the conclusion that she failed to uphold the high standards of personal conduct and professionalism required to preserve the independence and integrity of the judiciary.

Current Status

The matter returned on March 21 and 22, 2022 by Zoom for the disposition phase of the hearing.

On March 21, Justice of the Peace Ballam called seven character witnesses. On March 22, the Hearing Panel confirmed that Her Worship could file letters on behalf of her remaining character witnesses no later than March 29, 2022. The Panel also set a timeline for the filing of written closing submissions on disposition. Presenting Counsel will file written submissions by April 12, and Her Worship Ballam will file written submissions by May 3, 2022.

The Hearing Panel will release its decision on disposition in writing. Once released to the parties, the decision will be posted on the JPRC website.

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 chairs the panel, a justice of the peace, and a community member.

The decision to order a hearing was taken following the investigation of the complaint 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.

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:

  1. warn the justice of the peace;
  2. reprimand the justice of the peace;
  3. order the justice of the peace to apologize to the complainant or to any other person;
  4. 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;
  5. suspend the justice of the peace with pay, for any period; or,
  6. 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.

Pursuant to section 11(11)(a) of the Justices of the Peace Act, the committee made an interim recommendation to the Regional Senior Justice that Her Worship Ballam not be assigned work pending the final disposition of the complaint. The interim recommendation was accepted and Her Worship is not assigned work pending the final disposition of the complaint. In accordance with the legislation, Her Worship continues to be paid.

On October 15, 2020, an initial set-date appearance was conducted by teleconference with the Hearing Panel and Presenting Counsel. Her Worship did not participate in the teleconference. For the reasons set out in its decision dated October 16, 2020, the Hearing Panel ordered that hearing dates should be scheduled without further delay. A copy of the Panel’s Decision to Schedule Hearing Dates can be found at https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/jprc/public-hearings-decisions/.

The hearing was scheduled to proceed virtually through Zoom on March 2-5, 2021.

On February 19, 2021, Her Worship filed a motion to adjourn the hearing due to her medical condition and the fact that she had recently retained counsel. The Hearing Panel heard Her Worship’s motion, which included testimony from her doctor, on February 24, 2021.

The Panel granted the motion solely on the basis that new counsel had recently been retained for Her Worship. The Panel did not accept that Her Worship had cognitive or mental health issues that prevented her from meaningfully participating in the hearing.

A copy of the Panel’s Decision is posted on the JPRC Public Hearings Decisions webpage.

The Panel also made an order for a pre-hearing conference to assist counsel in exploring whether an Agreed Statement of Facts could be filed and in order to determine an accurate estimate of the length of the hearing.  A copy of the Order is posted on the JPRC Public Hearings Decisions webpage. The pre-hearing conference is scheduled to proceed on March 12, 2021.

On March 1, 2021, Her Worship discharged her counsel and is currently self-represented.

Evidence in the hearing commenced on March 23, 2021. Counsel called a witness from the Law Society of Ontario and a witness from the Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Corporation. On March 26, 2021, Presenting Counsel called Crown Counsel and an Assistant Crown Attorney to give evidence.

The hearing was scheduled to continue on April 19, 23, May 11, June 8 and 10, 2021 from 10 am to 4 pm.

Evidence in the hearing continued on April 19, 2021. Following the conclusion of the evidence of Mr. Andrew Lynes, Presenting Counsel sought to call its final witness, Mr. Tony Boubash. Mr. Boubash did not appear to attend or remain in attendance at the Zoom hearing, as required by the summons issued by the Review Council on April 7, 2021. Presenting Counsel was unable to connect with Mr. Boubash by telephone, text message or email during the hearing.

At the request of Presenting Counsel, the Panel granted an order for substituted service of the summons on Mr. Boubash returnable on Friday April 23, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.  The Order of the Hearing Panel can be found on the Public Hearings Decisions webpage. The hearing was adjourned to April 23, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.

Evidence in the hearing continued on April 23, 2021. Presenting Counsel’s final witness, Mr. Tony Boubash, again failed to attend the Zoom hearing as required by the summons. Presenting Counsel confirmed that Mr. Boubash was deliberately evading attendance at the hearing. She indicated that she would be relying on the transcripts and evidence that was already before the Panel and would be closing her case.

Her Worship made an opening statement and called two witnesses: Mr. Cyrus Abhar and Ms. Chynyan Li.

The hearing was adjourned to May 11, 2021 for Her Worship’s testimony and the testimony of Her Worship’s final witness.

The hearing continued on May 11, 2021. Her Worship called her third witness: Mr. James Webster. Her Worship also testified and was cross-examined by Presenting Counsel.

The matter was adjourned to June 8, 2021 for the completion of Presenting Counsel’s cross-examination of Her Worship and any reexamination. The Hearing Panel vacated the June 10, 2021 appearance and ordered that closing submissions be submitted in writing.

During her evidence in reexamination, Her Worship stated that she recently learned that her Long-Term Income Protection expired at age sixty-five, which she is turning this month. Her Worship also indicated that she has written to the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice to return to work but is waiting on receipt of a medical report.

Sixty-five is the mandatory age of retirement for justices of the peace in Ontario. A justice of the peace who has attained retirement age may, subject to the annual approval of the Chief Justice, continue in office until he or she attains the age of seventy-five years.

The proceeding was adjourned to June 17 at 9:00 a.m. by teleconference to give Her Worship an opportunity to consider her options and obtain independent legal advice on how to proceed in light of her upcoming 65th birthday.

During the appearance on June 17, Her Worship indicated that she is waiting to receive further medical information to provide to the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. The Hearing Panel noted that if Her Worship is not continued in office, the Panel will lose jurisdiction to proceed with the hearing. The matter was adjourned to June 29, 2021 at 1:15 pm by Zoom to obtain a further update from Her Worship.

During the appearance on June 29, Her Worship stated that she had been continued in office for three months so that she could obtain an independent medical examination for the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.

The Hearing Panel set a timetable for the delivery of written closing submissions.

On September 10, 2021, the parties attended before the Panel to provide oral reply submissions. A further appearance was scheduled for October 4, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. by Zoom for Her Worship to provide an update to the Hearing Panel on her request to continue in office.

Prior to the October 4, 2021 return date, Her Worship provided confirmation that she had received approval from the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice to continue in office. The October 4 appearance was therefore vacated.

Evidence in the hearing concluded on June 8, 2021 and closing submissions were concluded on September 10, 2021.

On December 14, 2021, the Hearing Panel released Reasons for Decision in which it found that Her Worship failed to uphold the standards of personal conduct and professionalism expected of judicial officers and undermined public confidence in her judicial office and the administration of justice. The Panel held that Her Worship’s behaviour meets the high threshold required to establish judicial misconduct and warrants the imposition of a disposition under section 11.1(10) of the Justices of the Peace Act.  A copy of the Hearing Panel’s Reasons is posted on the JPRC’s Public Hearings Decisions webpage at https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/jprc/public-hearings-decisions/.

Presenting Counsel: Marie Henein and Maya Borooah, Henein Hutchison LLP

For general information, contact: Council_information@ontario.ca