Judges reserve decision in Iqaluit Crown lawyer’s contempt of court appeal
Nunavut Court of Appeal heard arguments in case Tuesday
This article was updated on Wednesday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m.
Nunavut Court of Appeal judges have reserved judgment in a case involving a Crown lawyer acquitted of contempt of court who wants the judgment rendered void.
The judges heard the arguments in Iqaluit on Tuesday.
Crown lawyer Emma Baasch and RCMP Cpl. Andrew Kerstens were cited last July for contempt of court in the arrest of Robert Joseph Campbell. Campbell was set to be tried for assault causing bodily harm but was arrested on the morning of the start of his trial for allegedly interfering with a witness.
Judge Paul Bychok acquitted Baasch and Kerstens earlier this year.
Baasch wants the judgment voided because she doesn’t believe she was given fair due process.
The lawyers had two questions to answer for Tuesday’s appeal hearing.
The first question: can an accused person appeal from an acquittal?
The second question: can a court of appeal provide any remedy?
Cory Giordano, an amicus curiae — or friend of the court — responded by saying that the law states that an appeal should be heard if there was a conviction or punishment imposed, but in this case there was not, so an appeal should not be heard. A friend of the court is a lawyer who assists the court court by ensuring all relevant evidence and arguments are presented, according to a federal Justice Department website.
Therefore, the court of appeal cannot give an effective remedy in this case.
Baasch’s lawyer Robert Frater argued the court of appeal has jurisdiction to hear the appeal.
Frater argued that even though there was an acquittal, Bychok imposed a punishment on Baasch that has damaged her career. He added Baasch now has to present herself to the Nunavut Law Society and potentially face discipline.
In court, Frater added there was “no basis” for Baasch to be cited with contempt initially.
By allowing the appeal, the court can correct the errors of law that occurred to Baasch and remove the “legal jeopardy” she faces, Frater argued.
Baasch’s employer, the Prosecution Services of Canada, also sent a lawyer to support her in the hearing. Crown lawyer Mark Covan told the court the Crown’s concern is that Baasch’s citation for contempt of court will impact how prosecutors act in the future when giving legal advice.
“That’s a very dangerous and slippery slope,” Covan said in court.
The judges overhearing Tuesday’s appeal were Justice Kevin Feehan, Justice Anne Kirker and Justice Edith Campbell.
Feehan said the judges will take “some time” to discuss and write their decision.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that lawyer Cory Giordano was acting as amicus curiae, also known as “friend of the court.”