Thursday, July 26, 2012

A dangerous ploy

Asking a judicial officer to recuse themselves is amazingly dangerous. If they say no you are stuck with an angry jurist. If they say yes you have to start trial again. That said, Sheila Block is a brilliant lawyer and if she thinks such a motion prudent I will not debate the point:

"That was when Sheila Block, Judge Douglas's lawyer, asked the five-member committee headed by Alberta Chief Justice Catherine Fraser to recuse itself — it means withdraw — on the grounds it was biased against Judge Douglas — and halt the hearing.

At the heart of Ms. Block's argument is that the panel had directed its own lawyer, George Macintosh, to aggressively question two witnesses whose testimony supported Judge Douglas's position that she knew nothing of what her husband Jack King was doing nine years ago.

Both witnesses — Mr. King, whose testimony ended Wednesday, and Michael Sinclair, a former law partner of Mr. King and the judge both — were in effect cross-examined twice, once by Mr. Pratte or his associate Kirsten Crain, and once by Mr. Macintosh.

Mr. Macintosh has no client here; commission counsel's role is usually to advise the panel. As Ms. Block told the panel on Thursday, "This is not about throwing Mr. Macintosh under the bus: He is you."

And, just as a judge presiding over a trial is not to "enter the fray" or jump "into the arena" of adversarial legal jousting, but rather remain impartial and dispassionate, so is the panel in the judge's role here not supposed to get down in the muck with the lawyers.

As for Mr. Macintosh's questions, Ms. Block said, they "were improper and inappropriate," revealing what appear to be the panel's "one-sided views" and "an animus and a bias" against Judge Douglas. "It raised at least an appearance of bias," she said."

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