Justices of the peace use retirement to dodge disciplinary hearings

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Less than a month before he was set to face a discipline hearing for allegedly making racist remarks about Indigenous people in court, Kenora Justice of the Peace Robert McNally retired.

As a result, the public hearing into his case scheduled for this month was scrapped, as the law does not allow for the disciplining of retired justices of the peace and provincial court judges.

Critics say it’s time for that to change, and to bring the system closer in line with other bodies that maintain jurisdiction for discipline over retired professionals, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

“There is a public interest in judicial oversight bodies retaining jurisdiction to investigate complaints and make appropriate findings against judicial officers even when they retire or resign,” said Michael Lacy, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, one of the organizations that had complained about McNally to the Justices of the Peace Review Council.

“Although sanctions might be limited in such a case, there is value in allowing hearings to proceed. It would provide an opportunity for the judicial officer to answer the complaint and potentially clear his or her name in the face of a serious allegation,” Lacy said.

Judges and justices of the peace have also retired while their cases were being investigated by council complaints committees; in those circumstances, their names are kept secret and only a summary of the complaint against them is published in the councils’ annual reports.

Justices of the peace earn about $132,000 a year, and are appointed by the provincial government. Dressed in black robes and green sashes, they conduct bail hearings, sign off on search warrants and preside over trials in provincial offences court, which deals with non-criminal matters. Provincial court judges are also appointed by the Ontario government and earn about $290,000.

As first reported by the Star, McNally was alleged to have made racist remarks in bail court in August 2017 to lawyer Shannon McDunnough, who is Mi’kmaq. After making a joke about late British comedian Benny Hill, McNally wondered aloud if anyone even knew who Hill was. When McDunnough said she did, a court transcript says McNally responded, “Your ancestors probably scalped him or something.”

McNally, who was appointed in 1993, also faced allegations of judicial misconduct for allegedly acting in a manner that was “rude, dismissive, confrontational, condescending, impatient and sarcastic” in other cases, including allegedly making “inappropriate and gratuitous comments” to a female duty counsel.

Now that the hearing in his case has been cancelled, the allegations remain unproven and the complainants against him are left disillusioned.

“I can’t talk about the specifics of my client, but I can certainly point out that he was interested in fully defending himself when all of this arose almost two years ago,” McNally’s lawyer, Howard Rubel, told the Star. “Suffice it to say that he’s in his mid 70s and mandatory retirement is at 75.”

While recognizing that retirement may be appropriate in some cases, there are others — such as McNally’s — that should proceed for the sake of transparency and accountability, said Mary Bird, area director of Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services, another organization that complained about McNally.

Cancelling public hearings due to retirement “does not increase the public’s confidence in the administration of justice,” Bird said. “People don’t get to walk simply by saying ‘Oh, I’m going to retire,’ but apparently justices of the peace do.”

The law on disciplining judicial officers in Ontario applies only to sitting judges and justices of the peace, said Marilyn King, who is the registrar of both the Justices of the Peace Review Council and the Ontario Judicial Council.

“Unlike some legislation governing other bodies, neither the Courts of Justice Act or the Justices of the Peace Act contain any provisions that authorize proceeding or imposing dispositions when a person is a former judge or former justice of the peace,” King said.

The law sets out a number of potential penalties for a judge or justice of the peace who has been found guilty of judicial misconduct, including a warning, reprimand, an order to take additional training, paid or unpaid suspension, or a recommendation to the attorney general that the person be removed from office.

Granting power to the two councils to discipline retired jurists would require a change in legislation, something the government is not interested in doing. “Once a judicial official has left office, taking further action would not be an effective use of justice system resources,” said Ministry of the Attorney General spokesman Brian Gray.

University of Toronto law professor Kent Roach disagrees.

“I think from the complainants’ perspective and the public’s perspective there may be an ongoing interest, and frankly from the perspective of other judges and justices of the peace so that they know what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour,” he said.

Since January 2015, three other justices of the peace have retired before facing discipline hearings:

  • Alfred “Budd” Johnston retired in 2018 before a discipline hearing for alleged courtroom behaviour described as “condescending, sarcastic, bullying and mocking” toward a self-represented defendant. In 2014, Johnston was suspended without pay for seven days for dismissing 68 traffic cases because a prosecutor was 71 seconds late. At that time, his lawyer told the discipline panel that Johnston intended to retire in the summer of 2015.

Robert Whittaker retired in March 2015, just 10 days before a scheduled discipline hearing regarding allegations that he showed a lack of understanding to people with mental illnesses and had preconceived notions of Somalis. The review council recommended reimbursing Whittaker about $4,600 in public funds to cover part of his legal costs.

Santino Spadafora retired for a second and final time in January 2015 prior to facing a discipline hearing for allegations that he falsified more than 600 expense claims for meals, hotels, highway tolls and mileage for court dates in the Niagara region, totalling more than $16,000. Spadafora was originally supposed to face a hearing in November 2014, but retired, which led to the hearing being cancelled. Days later, he withdrew his offer to retire, which led to the hearing being rescheduled for January 2015, at which point he retired again. Then-attorney general Madeleine Meilleur accepted a review council recommendation to reimburse Spadafora $14,600 in legal costs.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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Progressive Conservatives dodge questions about Doug Ford’s chief of staff

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Doug Ford’s government is leaving the dangerous impression it’s fair game to put political pressure on police to make arrests by stonewalling questions swirling around the premier’s embattled chief of staff, critics say.

The concerns grew Thursday as opposition parties grilled the Progressive Conservatives over a Star report that Ford’s top aide, Dean French, was accused by PC whistleblowers of instructing them to direct police to raid outlaw cannabis shops to get video of “people in handcuffs” on TV news for partisan advantage.

“The government might not want to answer questions on this matter but the people of Ontario have the right to know,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who asked for a second day whether Ford has spoken to French about the situation.

Neither the government nor French has denied the order was given to political staff during a conference call on Oct. 17, the day cannabis became legal. Ontario’s integrity commissioner is considering a request for an official investigation from Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, who questioned whether there had been an “abuse of power.”

Several Conservative sources told the Star said objections were quickly raised about the order, which was not carried out, earning French’s ire. One staffer who questioned the directive was subsequently fired and the government has provided no public explanation.

Fedeli evaded every query on French and the fired staff member by talking about his recent fall economic statement, leaving opposition parties frustrated.

“It is very important for the government to recognize the breach that occurred here. This is serious business,” said Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers (Ottawa-Vanier), a former dean of law at the University of Ottawa.

“To deflect the question is not appropriate. You have to answer and promise that there is no interference in police investigations,” she added, noting there are police probes into a PC candidate nomination race in Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas and into a Highway 407 data breach that led to the resignation of a Brampton PC candidate during last spring’s election campaign.

“We want to make sure there is no (political) interference at this point, either,” Des Rosiers said.

Horwath said she has never seen a minister “blow off” questions in the way Fedeli did.

“I wasn’t intending to blow it off,” Fedeli told reporters. “They’ve asked the premier over and over, and he’s answered over and over, and I think he’s done an adequate job.”

But Ford has not said whether he’s asked French for an explanation on the police issue and admitted Tuesday he had not asked French about a Globe and Mail report that French ordered Ontario Power Generation to fire vice-president Alykhan Velshi, a former chief of staff to ousted PC leader Patrick Brown.

“It’s not on my radar,” Ford said at the time, expressing “1,000 per cent support” for French. He did not, however, repeat that endorsement on Wednesday when asked about French in the legislature.

Schreiner called on Ford to make public the results of any investigation into French.

“It’s clear to me the government doesn’t understand the serious nature of the premier’s chief of staff interfering in police business for political purposes,” he said.

Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake, who serves as the independent ethics watchdog for MPPs and political staff, said he is reviewing the complaint about French to determine if a conflict-of-interest rule has been broken under the Public Service of Ontario Act.

The request from Schreiner is to determine whether French took any steps that were “an inappropriate and/or and illegal abuse of power.”

Des Rosiers said citizens cannot have faith in police unless they are certain that investigations and arrests are not politically motivated.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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Dodge «Super Charger», un monstre de puissance

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NOUVEAUTÉ – La division sportive Mopar du groupe FCA greffe des moteurs récents dans des véhicules du passé. Cette fois-ci, un bloc inédit d’une puissance de 1000 chevaux prend place sous le capot d’une «muscle car» de 1968.

Plus populaire que Chrysler aux Etats-Unis, Dodge n’a pas l’habitude de faire dans la dentelle lorsqu’il s’agit de propulser ses «muscle cars». Estimant que la Challenger SRT était trop faiblarde avec 485 chevaux, la marque américaine a proposé une version «Hellcat» ne développant pas moins de 707 chevaux. N’étant toujours pas satisfait du résultat, Dodge mit au monde la «Demon», dont le V8 à compresseur de 6,2 litres envoyait 852 équidés aux seules roues arrière!

Résultat, cette voiture endiablée revendique le meilleur temps sur le 0 à 100 km/h jamais enregistré sur un véhicule de série (2,3 secondes), et serait même capable de soulever son train avant à l’accélération.

Mopar, réputé pour commercialiser des kits pour les moteurs HEMI® installés dans les anciennes générations de Dodge, a décidé cette fois-ci de développer un moteur complet.

Fondé sur une iconique Dodge Charger de 1968, le concept «Super Charger» de Mopar accueille une motorisation inédite. Surnommé «Hellephant», en hommage au groupe Mopar 426 HEMI que l’on appelait «éléphant» pour sa taille et sa puissance, ce moteur avance des chiffres titanesques: 1 000 chevaux et 1 288 Nm de couple.

Fondé sur une iconique Dodge Charger de 1968, le concept «Super Charger» embarque une motorisation inédite.
Fondé sur une iconique Dodge Charger de 1968, le concept «Super Charger» embarque une motorisation inédite. FCA US LLC/© 2018 FCA US LLC

Esthétiquement, ce prototype ressemble en tout point à la Dodge Charger modifiée conduite par Vin Diesel, alias Dom Toretto, dans la série de films «Fast and Furious». Bien évidemment, certains éléments de la «muscle car» de 1968 ont du être modifiés pour supporter la fougue de ce nouveau V8 à compresseur. Ainsi, la boîte de vitesses manuelle à six rapports est celle de la Dodge Challenger Hellcat, tandis que les freins équipés d’étriers à six pistons viennent de chez Brembo.

La «Super Charger» a beaucoup puisé dans la banque d’organes du groupe FCA. Par exemple, le volant et les sièges proviennent de la Dodge Viper, alors que les tuyaux d’échappement sont ceux de l’Alfa Romeo Stelvio. Le moteur «Hellephant» ainsi que son kit de montage sont prévus pour des véhicules d’avant 1976, mais il n’est pas exclu que ce V8 se retrouve sous le capot d’un modèle à hautes performances badgé Dodge.

Encore au stade de concept, la Dodge Challenger Hellephant va-t-il donner naissance à une petite série? Ou ce moteur se retrouvera-t-il sous le capot d’une hypothétique prochaine Dodge Viper?

Esthétiquement, ce prototype ressemble en tout point à la Dodge Charger modifiée conduite par Vin Diesel, alias Dom Toretto, dans la série de films «Fast and Furious».
Esthétiquement, ce prototype ressemble en tout point à la Dodge Charger modifiée conduite par Vin Diesel, alias Dom Toretto, dans la série de films «Fast and Furious». FCA US LLC/© 2018 FCA US LLC

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