Judge blocks Nunavut lawyers from pursuing complaints against JP
Pair of lawyers don’t have legal standing for review of 2014 JP disciplinary ruling
Two Nunavut lawyers don’t have standing to seek a judicial review of a disciplinary decision issued last year into the conduct of a justice of the peace in Cambridge Bay, Justice Vital Ouellette has ruled.
The two lawyers, Tamara Fairchild and Clare Henderson, wanted the Nunavut Court of Justice to review a 2014 decision made by the Nunavut Justice of the Peace Review Council into Gordon Bligh, a justice of the peace in Cambridge Bay.
Fairchild had filed one complaint against Bligh in 2012. Henderson had filed two complaints against him in 2013.
Following a three-day hearing held in April 2014, a special body called the Justice of the Peace Review Council issued a decision.
In it, they dismissed Fairchild’s complaint. On Henderson’s first complaint, they recommended Bligh attend a training program on judicial ethics.
On Henderson’s second complaint, they ruled Bligh’s conduct was unethical and issued a reprimand. Ouelette’s decision does not state what that unethical conduct consisted of.
The two lawyers, however, disagreed with the council’s decision, and sought a judicial review.
They argued that such a review is warranted by the public interest and by procedural fairness, because the JP review council did not explain why they did not remove Bligh from his position as JP.
“The complainants further argue that the review council “failed to provide reasons for its decision to reject the call for the removal of JP Bligh,” Ouellette’s said.
After hearing evidence and arguments from Bligh’s lawyer, the JP review council’s lawyer, and a lawyer representing the two complaining lawyers, Ouellette said Fairchild and Henderson don’t have standing to launch their judicial review.
He said that’s because they failed to demonstrate there was a lack of procedural fairness at the JP review council’s 2014 hearing and failed to demonstrate that it would be in the public interest to grant them standing.
In doing so, he also pointed out that the JP review council has the right to decide on its own sanctions and doesn’t have to state reasons for them.
“The Review Council is not statutorily required to demonstrate ‘why’ it rejected a particular form of sanction and preferred a different sanction or remedy. Accordingly, the complainants have failed to establish that their right to procedural fairness was breached or violated,” Ouellette said.
Ouellette, a judge on the Albert Court of Queen’s Bench, also serves as deputy judge on the Nunavut Court of Justice.
That Justice of the Peace Review Council is made up of the senior judge of the Nunavut court, Robert Kilpatrick, one other Nunavut judge, a justice of the peace, and two members of the public.