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 three complaints about the conduct of Justice of the Peace Julie Lauzon of the Ontario Court of Justice.
A summary of the allegations considered by the Hearing Panel is summarized below. The Hearing Panel considered whether Her Worship’s conduct constituted judicial misconduct:
Her Worship failed to uphold the integrity, impartiality and independence of the judiciary when she inappropriately used the power and prestige of her judicial office to make out-of-court statements in the media in an opinion piece entitled “When Bail Courts Don’t Follow the Law” published in the National Post on March 15, 2016 in which she made disparaging comments and allegations of misconduct against the Crown and other members of the judiciary, without regard for their personal reputations. Her Worship made inappropriate comments in court that could be perceived as inconsistent with the integrity, impartiality and independence expected of the judiciary.
In its decision released on May 7, 2020, the Hearing Panel unanimously found that Her Worship engaged in judicial misconduct when she authored and submitted an article for publication entitled, “When bail courts don’t fall the law”. The Panel dismissed the second allegation relating to comments Her Worship made during the course of a bail hearing. The Panel’s Reasons for Decision are posted on the “Public Hearings Decisions” webpage.
The Panel subsequently considered counsels’ oral and written submissions on disposition, as well as written submissions on Her Worship’s application for compensation for her legal costs. On November 27, 2020, the Panel released its Reasons for Decision on Disposition and Reasons for Decision on Her Worship’s Application for Compensation. The decision is posted on the “Public Hearing Decisions” webpage.
In its Decision on Disposition, a majority of the Hearing Panel (Justice Feroza Bhabha and Ms. Margot Blight) concluded that the most severe disposition – a recommendation to the Attorney General that Her Worship be removed from office – was appropriate the appropriate disposition. The Panel found that the serious nature of the misconduct, which was reinforced by Her Worship’s testimony during the hearing, was so seriously contrary to the impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary that it irreparably undermined public confidence in Her Worship’s ability to perform her duties. The majority of the Panel held that the erosion in confidence in Her Worship rendered her incapable of performing the duties of her office. Accordingly, the Panel held that a recommendation for removal from office was necessary to restore public confidence in the judiciary and the administration of justice
In his dissenting Reasons, Regional Senior Justice of the Peace Thomas Stinson found that Her Worship’s conduct did not render her incapable of performing the duties of office such that a recommendation for removal from office was appropriate. His Worship held that a more proportionate disposition would be a reprimand and a 30-day suspension without pay. His Worship held that this combination of dispositions would drive home the seriousness of the misconduct and would be sufficient to restore the confidence of the public in the integrity of the judiciary as a whole and in the administration of justice.
In its unanimous Reasons for Decision on Her Worship’s Application for Compensation, the Panel considered Her Worship’s application for legal costs incurred in connection with the investigation and the hearing. Her Worship sought a total of $202,481.31, including HST and disbursements. In its Decision, the Panel recommended to the Attorney General that Her Worship receive partial compensation for her legal costs and disbursements in the amount of $112,010.68, plus HST.
Her Worship has filed an application for judicial review of the decisions made by the Hearing Panel and an urgent motion for a stay of the decision of the Hearing Panel recommending her removal from office. The matter is still ongoing.
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.
Pursuant to section 11.1(1) of the Act, the Honourable Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve, Chair of the Council, 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.
Pursuant to section 11.1 of the Act, the Hearing Panel may dismiss the complaints, with or without a finding that it is unfounded, or if it upholds the complaints, 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 Panel 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.
A prehearing conference was conducted on July 18 and August 7, 2018.
On August 8, 2018, the parties appeared before the Hearing Panel to set dates for the hearing.
The parties appeared before the Hearing Panel on October 30, 2018 to address:
- Presenting Counsel’s motion for an Adjournment and Directions, filed on October 22, 2018; and
- The Application by the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario (AJPO) for intervenor status, filed on September 14, 2018.
The Hearing Panel granted Presenting Counsel’s motion for an adjournment and directions, and vacated the November 1 and 2nd hearing dates.
The Hearing Panel also heard submissions on, and granted, AJPO’s motion for intervenor status.
On December 12, 2018, counsel from the Constitutional Law Branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General appeared and informed the Panel that the Ministry will be intervening on the components of the constitutional questions with respect to the ability of Attorneys General to make a complaint about a sitting justice of the peace.
Presenting Counsel sought an interim order for a publication ban on the names of judicial officers and lawyers referred to in the materials filed by Her Worship in support of her Notice of Constitutional Question. The Panel granted the interim publication ban and ordered that the publication of the names of the judicial officers and lawyers, including Crown and defence counsel, referred to in the materials filed by Her Worship in support of the Notice of Constitutional Question, is prohibited on an interim basis.
The hearing was scheduled to proceed on January 14, 15 and February 15, 2019.
On January 14, 2019, Mr. Dominic Lamb, counsel for Her Worship Lauzon, filed a motion for an Order removing himself as counsel of record and for an adjournment of the hearing. Mr. Lamb indicated that there had been an irreparable breakdown in the solicitor-client relationship, and that Her Worship required a reasonable adjournment in order to retain new counsel.
Presenting Counsel did not take a position on the motion. Nor did counsel for the interveners or counsel for the Attorney General of Ontario.
The Hearing Panel granted Mr. Lamb’s motion to remove himself as counsel of record and granted the motion for an adjournment of the hearing. The dates for counsel to file materials in relation to the Notice of Constitutional Question were vacated.
The January 15, 2019 hearing date was vacated, and the Hearing Panel reserved February 15, 2019 for the matter to be spoken to, for new hearing dates to be scheduled, and for a new timetable to be determined for filing materials. On March 22, 2018, a further pre-hearing conference took place. On March 27, 2019, the Hearing Panel convened a teleconference and a hearing dates were scheduled, as set out above.
A motion on the admissibility of seven affidavits that Her Worship sought to file was scheduled to be argued on Wednesday July 17, 2019 at 10 a.m. Prior to the motion, Presenting Counsel and counsel for Her Worship reached an agreement that the affidavits can be admitted into evidence, subject to argument as to their relevance and weight.
Accordingly, the Hearing Panel converted the July 17, 2019 attendance into a teleconference, wherein counsel confirmed their agreement on the record.
The hearing commenced on September 12, 2019 and continued on September 16, 17 and 18, 2019.
On September 17, 2019, the Hearing Panel denied counsel’s request for a continuing publication ban on the names of judicial officers and lawyers referred to in the materials filed by Her Worship in support of her Notice of Constitutional Question. The Interim Publication Ban of the Hearing Panel was lifted and is no longer in force.
On September 16, 17 and 18, 2019, Mr. Lawrence Greenspon, counsel for Justice of the Peace Lauzon, called evidence from three justices of the peace on behalf of Her Worship. Her Worship testified and her evidence concluded on September 18, 2019.
On October 9, 2018, Presenting Counsel called evidence from the former president of the Crown Attorneys’ Association. Following this testimony, on October 10 and 11, 2019, counsel made submissions on the evidence and on the Constitutional law issues.
The Hearing Panel reserved its decision.
The Hearing Panel scheduled dates in May, 2020 for submissions on disposition, if needed. Subsequently, the Panel granted a written motion filed by Mr. Greenspon requesting that the May dates be vacated. Dates in July were scheduled.
Motion for Adjournment and Directions
On October 30, 2018, Presenting Counsel argued a Motion for Directions and an Adjournment. The basis for the motion was that, on October 16, 2018, Counsel for Her Worship served a Notice of Constitutional Question (the “NCQ”) on Presenting Counsel and the Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada.
Presenting Counsel submitted that he had not been served with an application record or factum in respect of the NCQ, and that evidence could not be called until Her Worship filed materials and the Attorneys General confirmed their respective positions.
Presenting Counsel also requested that the Hearing Panel set a timetable for the exchange of materials in respect of the NCQ.
Counsel for Her Worship did not oppose the request for an adjournment and directions.
The Hearing Panel granted the motion, and confirmed that the NCQ would be argued after all evidence had been called. The Panel also set a timetable for the service and filing of materials on the NCQ. The Panel ordered the parties to return on December 12, 2018 to schedule further hearing dates.
Presenting Counsel also advised the Panel of his intention to make submissions at the next date (December 12) regarding his decision not to proceed on two of the allegations set out in the Notice of Hearing arising from comments allegedly made by Her Worship in bail court.
Application for Intervenor Status
On October 30, 2018, the Hearing Panel heard submissions on AJPO’s motion for leave to intervene in the hearing. Counsel for Her Worship consented to the motion. Presenting Counsel did not oppose the motion, but requested that limitations be imposed on AJPO’s participation.
The Hearing Panel granted AJPO’s application to provide submissions on: (a) whether and to what extent any sanction of Justice of the Peace Lauzon could interfere with the independence of the Justices of the Peace bench; (b) Whether and to what extent principles of freedom of expression enshrined in paragraph 2(b) of the Charter apply to judicial officers when making public statements about matters relevant to the administration of justice; and (c) how any freedom to make public statements on matters affecting the administration of justice should be reconciled with issues of judicial independence.
The Panel also accepted Presenting Counsel’s proposed terms and conditions on AJPO’s intervention, including that AJPO must not seek to add to the factual record, dispute the proven facts, adduce further evidence, or raise new issues, and must make reasonable efforts not to duplicate submissions made by the parties.
Notice of Constitutional Question
On October 18, 2018, Her Worship Lauzon filed a Notice of Constitutional Question, posing:
- Whether, the Attorney General for Ontario and/or the Attorney General for Canada seek to interfere with Her Worship’s judicial independence through complaints made leading to JPRC discipline proceedings;
- Whether and to what extent Her Worship should be protected and insulated from the external influence of the Attorney General for Ontario and/or the Attorney General for Canada that could potentially be seen to undermine her ability to adjudicate impartially;
- Whether principles of freedom of expression in s. 2(b) of the Charter apply to Her Worship when making public statements about matters relevant to the administration of justice, and if so, would sanctions by the JPRC violate that freedom, and is such a violation a reasonable limit prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society;
- If such freedoms are found to apply and any limits imposed are not justified, is Her Worship entitled to a remedy pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter.
Counsel for Her Worship filed materials on the NCQ.
Scope of Allegations against Her Worship
During the October 30, 2018 appearance, Presenting Counsel indicated that he would not be presenting evidence in relation to two of the allegations in the Notice of Hearing related to comments allegedly made by Her Worship in bail court. Presenting Counsel indicated that after considering all of the circumstances and changes in the law related to bail court, he had concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of a finding of judicial misconduct on those allegations related to in-court conduct.
Presenting Counsel indicated that that he would call Crown witnesses to give evidence on the impact of the comments made by Her Worship in the article, “When Bail Courts Don’t Follow the Law” that was published in the National Post.
Decision on Misconduct Allegations
On May 7, 2020, the Hearing Panel issued its decision that Her Worship engaged in judicial misconduct, finding:
“As in Doré, we find that the Article was not a justifiable response to Her Worship’s displeasure with how bail courts were run. It created a reasonable perception that she lacked impartiality. This was damaging to her in her role as a judicial officer, the judiciary as a whole, and the good administration of justice. It also had the effect of undermining the public’s confidence in the administration of justice and thereby risked diminishing respect for the rule of law.”
The allegation in relation to Her Worship’s conduct in court was dismissed.
The complete Reasons for Decision are posted on the webpage “Public Hearing Decisions”.
Counsel filed written submissions on disposition. On July 16, 2020, oral submissions on disposition were heard by way of a virtual proceeding via Zoom.
During oral submissions, Presenting Counsel submitted that the relevant authorities support a conclusion that a disposition at the more serious end of the range is justified in the circumstances. It was submitted that if the Hearing Panel determines that a recommendation for removal is not warranted, the Panel could consider a combination of dispositions including a suspension, a warning, a reprimand and an educational requirement.
Presenting Counsel submitted that Her Worship’s conduct in writing the newspaper Article and throughout these disciplinary proceedings raises serious doubts about her understanding of and commitment to her ethical obligations as a judicial officer, and it would be open to the Hearing Panel to determine that the appropriate remedy to restore public confidence in the judiciary would be to recommend to the Attorney General that Her Worship Lauzon be removed from office.
Counsel for Her Worship Lauzon submitted that the disciplinary process itself, the publicity in newspapers and on the Review Council’s website about this matter, and the stress that she has experienced have served as a sufficient sanction, and that no additional disposition is required to repair any damage done to the integrity and repute of the administration of justice. It was submitted that since the publishing of the newspaper article, Her Worship Lauzon has continued to sit on the bench, and there have been no further findings of judicial misconduct, and no indication of a repeating of any of the behaviour that forms the basis of the judicial misconduct surrounding the article.
Counsel for Her Worship submitted that should the Hearing Panel believe that a sanction is necessary, a reprimand is the appropriate disposition and serves the remedial purpose of judicial misconduct proceedings and will repair any damage done to the integrity and repute of the administration of justice. Counsel requested that if the disposition is a suspension or a recommendation to the Attorney General for removal from office, such sanction should not take effect for 30 days from the date of the Hearing Panel’s decision.
The Hearing Panel reserved its decision.
Counsel for Her Worship indicated that Her Worship will be requesting that the Hearing Panel make a recommendation to the Attorney General that she should be compensated for the legal costs incurred by the hearing. Submissions on the request will be made in writing.
Presenting Counsel are Mr. Scott Fenton, Mr. Ian Smith and Mr. Andrew Guaglio, Fenton Smith Barristers.
Counsel for Her Worship are Mr. Lawrence Greenspon and Mr. Graham Bebbington, Greenspon, Granger Hill.
Counsel for the Interveners, the Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario are Mr. Scott Rollwagen and Ms. Margaret Robbins, Lenczner Slaght.
Counsel for the Attorney General of Ontario, Constitutional Law Branch, Mr. Mark Crow and Ms. Savitri Gordian.
For general information, contact: Ms. Marilyn E. King, Registrar, telephone 416-327-5672.