National Post

May 11, 2002

Council clears judge for writing letter about abuse

Affirmed work by committee on spousal murder

Tom Blackwell
National Post

Yvonne Berg, National Post
As a Crown attorney, Justice Leslie Baldwin helped prosecute Paul Bernardo.

Ontario's judicial watchdog has cleared a judge of charges that she crossed the line into political lobbying when she prodded the government to take more action on violence against women.

Concluding a rare public trial of a judge, the Ontario judicial council ruled yesterday that Justice Leslie Baldwin did nothing wrong by writing a letter to the province's Attorney-General on the topic.

The letter followed up on a report on spousal killings by a government-appointed committee that she had chaired.

But when someone else made her letter public, an influential lawyers group and other critics accused Judge Baldwin of placing her all-important independence and objectivity in serious question.

The judge, who as a Crown attorney had helped prosecute Paul Bernardo, is more than relieved that the council dismissed the allegation, said Earl Levy, her lawyer.

"Justice Baldwin is thrilled," Mr. Levy said. "There's no doubt that she felt the stress of this complaint hanging over her head ... It is not an easy thing for a judge to find himself or herself the subject of a public inquiry, especially when Justice Baldwin's committee produced a report that was designed to save lives."

One of the complaints against Judge Baldwin came from the Criminal Lawyers Association, a major Ontario group. The association's president did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Judge Baldwin had been asked by the government to chair a committee that was supposed to come up with a plan of action against domestic violence after several murder-suicides in which men killed their female partners.

The report came out in mid-1999 but almost a year later, some members of the committee wrote to Judge Baldwin to complain that few of its proposals had been implemented. They asked her to contact the government and request that it print 2,000 copies of their report and support a summit on woman abuse.

Judge Baldwin forwarded their letter with a short, three-paragraph missive of her own. It said she endorsed the others' requests and noted she has observed no noticeable change in how lawyers deal with abuse cases in her court, despite the report's call for changes.

But the judicial council said the letter was simply a reaffirmation of views that were earlier expressed in the committee's report, not an attempt to advocate on behalf of a cause.

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