Toronto Sun

Thursday, April 4, 2002

Judge's beef just 'logical'

But jurist was compromised, complaints panel told

By IAN MCDOUGALL, TORONTO SUN

 Justice Lesley Baldwin should not be punished for writing to Ontario's attorney general about justice system reforms she helped draft in domestic violence cases, her lawyer says.

"Why should the letter not be viewed as a logical followup, without her being viewed as an advocate," Earl Levy argued before a tribunal of the Ontario Judicial Council yesterday after a misconduct complaint was filed by the Criminal Lawyers' Association and Peter Cornakovic, former president of Fathers Are People Too.

The complaint was filed after a July 7, 2000 letter that Baldwin wrote to Attorney General James Flaherty was made public.

Baldwin's letter states: "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.

"I am willing to meet with you again to discuss the five-year plan our committee prepared."

Baldwin was referring to a report produced by the Joint Committee on Domestic Violence, which she headed. The August 1999 report details changes to the way domestic violence cases are handled by the justice system.

Baldwin had asked permission from the Chief Justice before agreeing to sit on the committee.

Once the work was done, the tribunal heard, there was concern from some committee members that the recommendations were not being implemented and the report itself was almost unknown, committee member Peter Jaffe testified yesterday.

"Why did they spend money on the committee in the first place if they weren't prepared to implement (the recommendations)," he said.

On July 5, 2000, he wrote to Baldwin with the committee's concern its work was being ignored.

Lawyer Doug Hunt, who represents the complainants, argued that writing to Flaherty compromised Baldwin's independence because it was written after her leave of absence when she returned to the bench.

"In July of 2000, Baldwin is again a sitting judge," he said. "The Chief Judge's approval came with conditions."

He also argued that the distribution of Baldwin's letter was done to pressure Flaherty to implement the recommendations. But Levy denied the allegations against his client.

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