Judge Accused of Conflict of Interest Loses Decorum and Withdraws from Case
Judge donated money to party in lawsuit in honour of deceased son, who was a lawyer at the firm now representing the party.
A judge of the Ontario Superior Court in Ottawa threw a fit this morning and withdrew himself from a defamation case (St. Lewis vs. Rancourt) after the Defendant presented documents suggesting links between the judge and another party to the case.
The Defendant, Mr. Rancourt asked Justice Robert Beaudoin this morning to hear a motion that the judge recuse himself on grounds of “reasonable apprehension of bias” and “appearance of conflict of interest.” Mr. Rancourt presented an article by the Ottawa Citizen that described the judge’s efforts to memorialize his son, including a scholarship he donated to the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, which is a party in the proceeding (Intervener). The article also stated that a boardroom had been named after Justice Beaudoin’s son at the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, where the son worked as a lawyer until his death, and which represented the University of Ottawa as a party before Justice Beaudoin.
After angrily yelling at Mr. Rancourt that his request for an adjournment in preparation for a motion was denied, Justice Beaudoin threatened to hold Mr. Rancourt in contempt of court. The judge called a recess and then returned to inform the parties that he would be withdrawing himself from all further proceedings in the case, not before expressing that “never in his judicial career” had he seen actions so “disgusting and provocative” as the Defendant’s submission of the newspaper article, and telling the Defendant that “unfortunately” he had “succeeded” in having the judge removed from the case.
There is nothing worse that can happen to a parent than the grief of losing his own child, and Justice Beaudoin’s commitment to preserving the spirit of his son is honourable. However, his comments in the courtroom and his failure to disclose his connections to the University of Ottawa and the lawfirm representing it, Borden Ladner Gervais, raise serious ethical concerns that should be reviewed by the Canadian Judicial Council.
*Update: July 27 Ottawa Citizen article about judge’s recusal. Note that the Plaintiff’s lawyer, Richard Dearden, regularly represents the Ottawa Citizen.