Globe and Mail

Secretive judicial council opens its doors

Thursday, April 4, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A10
The Globe and Mail

A judge became the accused yesterday as an ultra-secretive form of disciplinary hearing was opened to public scrutiny for the first time.

Ontario Court Judge Lesley Baldwin stood accused before the Ontario Judicial Council of compromising her impartiality by "lobbying" Ontario's attorney-general to reduce domestic abuse.

A lawyer for the council, Douglas Hunt, suggested that Judge Baldwin was "used" by domestic-abuse activists to cajole the province into reforming its laws and procedures.

But Judge Baldwin's lawyer, Earl Levy, said the attack on her impartiality was a sorry way to treat an individual who has struggled on behalf of victims of a rampant social scourge.

"I am honoured to represent Justice Baldwin today, and I ask you not to shoot the messenger just because she is a judge," Mr. Levy said.

Yesterday's meeting was a long-awaited look at how a judicial council assesses guilt and administers punishments that range from a caution to outright removal. Each province has a council, and under a new policy, most OJC hearings will be open to the press and public.

The council panel is composed of a trial judge, appellate judge, a lawyer and a lay person.

They reserved their ruling yesterday on the Baldwin hearing.

From 1998-1999, Judge Baldwin, a former Crown lawyer who helped prosecute serial killer Paul Bernardo, presided over a committee that made hundreds of recommendations aimed at combating domestic abuse.

When its report was followed by months of inaction, several members of the committee wrote to Judge Baldwin expressing frustration.

She forwarded their letter to James Flaherty, who was Ontario's attorney-general at the time, along with her own comments: "I endorse their requests and can add parenthetically that I have observed no noticeable change in the manner in which counsel are approaching these difficult cases in the criminal courts in which I preside."

Shortly afterward, she and three committee members received an invitation to "rebrief" Mr. Flaherty.

Psychologist Peter Jaffe, one of the committee members, then created a furor by releasing her letter to the press. Several complaints flowed into the council.

"I didn't see the letter as private and confidential," Dr. Jaffe testified. He said the committee was not using Judge Baldwin out of a belief that she had extra "clout."

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