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Judicial Council closes file in complaint against BC Madam Justice Southin

OTTAWA, March 21, 2003 – The Canadian Judicial Council has closed a complaint file involving Madam Justice Mary F. Southin of the British Columbia Court of Appeal for smoking in her office, having concluded that there are no grounds for a finding of judicial misconduct, the Council has advised the author of a formal complaint against the judge.

The judge's smoking and the installation of a ventilation system in her chambers that was done at the direction of the B.C. Attorney General, "do not fall within the ambit of judicial conduct reviewable under the Judges Act", Vancouver lawyer Dugald Christie was told in a letter from Jeannie Thomas, the Council's Executive Director. The complaint was dealt with by the Honourable Constance Glube, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and Vice-Chairperson of the Council's Judicial Conduct Committee.

Mr. Christie originally alleged that by continuing to smoke and by accepting changes to her chambers to accommodate a ventilation system, Madam Justice Southin had brought the administration of justice into disrepute. In a further letter of complaint, Mr. Christie argued that Madam Justice Southin's dissenting reasons in a recent decision in Reilly v. Lynn were an "effrontery" to the Supreme Court of Canada. He also argued that the judge's conduct will give rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias on her part when cases are argued before her by the provincial government or its Crown corporations, because she will be beholden to the Attorney General for providing the changes in her chambers.

Chief Justice Glube also rejected these allegations. She noted that the Council has no jurisdiction to review whether a judicial decision is correct or not, and that the assessment of judicial conduct is concerned with actual bias or actual conflict of interest, not a reasonable apprehension of bias. Mr. Christie was advised that he had provided no evidence of actual bias or actual conflict of interest.

On the issue of smoking, the response stated that B.C.'s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations place the onus on the Attorney General to control exposure to workplace smoke by prohibitions, restrictions or "other equally effective means". In this case, it was the Attorney General's decision as to how the province would comply with the regulation.

The Council's procedures for dealing with complaints about the conduct of federally appointed judges may be found on its Web site at http://www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca/.

Contact

Ms. Jeannie Thomas
Executive Director
(613) 998-5182