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Judge's disciplinary process should be more public

Toronto criminal lawyer John Rosen is among those in the criminal defence Bar saying details surrounding a 2012 complaint against Ontario Court Justice John Ritchie should be made public — the same as any lawyer’s disciplinary case.

“You want to have a transparent system,” he tells Law Times.

The Oct. 14 decision from the Ontario Judicial Council regarding disclosure of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) complaint against the judge has left some lawyers concerned about the continued secrecy around the case, says the article.

In addition to lawyers’ complaints, the judge’s rulings have also been taken to task by some other appeal judges, including Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy, who in 2003 made the finding that Ritchie had provided identical, “boilerplate” comments instead of providing his own reasons for finding some witnesses not believable, says the legal trade magazine.

The 2012 complaint by the CLA resulted in an investigation by a subcommittee of the Ontario Judicial Council, and it proceeded to the chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice for review on the condition that the judge was willing to take part in educational courses, says the article.

In 2014, the Toronto Star, in hearing about the matter, joined CLA’s request for full disclosure of the details of the matter.

The judicial council’s most recent ruling, however, finds the confidentiality order binding but said it would release a brief complaint letter that states that “the ground for the complaint is that Justice Ritchie fails to conduct proceedings in a judicial manner as is required of a judge of the Ontario Court,” says the article.

Rosen, partner at Rosen Naster LLP, says that while he isn’t taking sides one way or the other, he feels that for the sake of transparency, the complaint and the investigation, as well as the results would have to be made public in order to preserve the integrity of the judicial system. 

“It’s very, very difficult to identify systemic bias even in a context of one particular judicial official because every case depends on its own and everyone has a right to appeal,” he says. “But when you have a series of concerns raised that turn into complaints, then someone has to do a real investigation to determine what the problem is in general terms.”

 

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