A sordid story from across the border has called into question notions of "judicial authority"... even when the judge was herself a victim.
Here's what happened. Lori Douglas, a family court judge, is married to Jack King, 64, a Winnipeg family lawyer. One Alexander Chapman is suing King for incidents of sexual harassment that Chapman says occurred when he hired King to be his divorce lawyer in 2002. Says the CBC News,
Chapman said King invited him out for a drink and mentioned a porn website devoted to interracial sex, particularly between black men and white women."He was talking to me about websites and stuff, and … he gave me a website to go to called Darkcavern.com," said Chapman, who is black and originally from Trinidad. King supplied him with a password, Chapman said, and told him to look at a section called "Our White Princesses," where white women post photos to attract black men. Numerous nude photos of King's wife, who was a lawyer at the same firm her husband worked at, were posted there, Chapman said."I wanted to puke," Chapman said. "[The pictures] were disgusting. I couldn't believe my lawyer was doing this to me."
Chapman adds that "As a black person, a black guy, I'm really sad that he looked at me as being a sex object." He says he stayed with King because he could not afford another lawyer, and that, fearing for his case, he humored him to the point of meeting King's wife - but that was as far as he went. As soon as the case was concluded, Chapman filed a complaint, King left the firm and Chapman "received $25,000 cash payment from King in return for promises not to take legal action against King and his partners."
This was apparently not legally binding, because now Chapman's filed a formal complaint for harassment and discrimination against both King and Douglas, citing mental anguish and concerns that the matter "may have influence in civil court cases he's involved in." King admits he was inappropriate, and says he was "deeply depressed" at the time.
The issue is, in the intervening period, Lori Douglas has been made a judge, making the stakes much higher - even if, as both she and her husband claim, she had no knowledge of the images being on the web. Some experts say it doesn't matter; when your authority's been undermined, the effect is the same. "If pictures of you naked end up on an internet site, it's quite difficult to say you have the credibility to be a judge," said Sébastien Grammond, a law professor. He adds that this is exactly the sort of thing they're referring to when, as a judicial candidate, you're asked to reveal anything incriminating about your past.
Of course, whether it's legal grounds in itself for leaving the bench is another matter; a federally-appointed judge can only be removed by parliament, and the fact that she's a defendant is probably the main thing with which the Canadian Judicial Council will be concerning itself. The fact that it's the case's publicity, rather than the complaint itself, that are likely to undermine the judge's authority, is probably why CBC ran this "Editorial Decision" explanation: "We recognize that in reporting stories, harm can be one of the consequences. But we are guided by the principle that important stories in the public interest must be told, and in doing so we make our best efforts to minimize any harm that might ensue." We're also wondering what's on the books about husbands defaming wives - if, that is, that's still their relationship. Whatever the outcome, the story's a deeply distressing one...and a good argument against digital boudoir photography. After all, you never know when someone might get "depressed."
Image via Shutterstock.