24 August 2012

Brian Crockett: not another Michael Bryant 'justice' story

updated Aug 30, 2012; Nov 8, 2012

Two years ago, former attorney-general Michael Bryant, while driving his car in Toronto, was involved in an incident with the cyclist Darcy Sheppard, resulting in Darcy’s death.

On Saturday, August 18, Brian Crockett, Crown Attorney for Oxford County, was charged with impaired driving and failing to provide a breath sample. The Woodstock Police Department and the Fire Department responded to the call of a pickup truck in the ditch (Impaired Driver, Aug 19, 2012; Oxford County Crown Attorney, Aug 20, 2012).

Coincidentally, Michael Bryant, former Attorney-general of Ontario, has just announced the release of his new book, ‘28 Seconds: A True Story of Addiction, Tragedy and Hope,’ although public reception of it hasn’t been good. In it, he criticizes the Toronto Police for jumping in too fast to lay charges (Police reject Michael Bryant’s criticism, Aug 21, 2012). He was initially charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death (Bryant charged, Sept, 2009) but the charges were dropped.

One news report on Brian Crockett’s unfortunate incident congratulated the police on doing their duty and not simply letting Crockett off – hardly an expression of faith in our legal system (Kudos for cops in Crockett arrest, Aug 23, 2012). But seeing how Michael Bryant managed to escape due process and possible punishment leaves one wondering.

Obviously, the charges facing Brian Crockett are not even close to the severity of those Bryant had initially faced. The whole purpose of laying a charge of impaired driving – and being strict about it, even for first time offenders – is to lessen the chances of future incidents involving needless death due to impairment. Perhaps it is assumed that some people are likely to benefit more from punishment than others, for whom a one-off is really just that – a one-time incident that will never happen again.

One reader commented that she “supported” Brian Crockett, though what she meant by that isn’t clear, whether it meant she would be bringing him home-baked cookies if he ended up behind bars, or was trying to influence opinion. What she did was judge him on his reputation – his career, and his family and community standing. And just as it was with Michael Bryant, the claim was made that stress had something to do with it, as though it is only people with high status careers who feel such stress and whose lives are difficult. If this is the case, with Brian Crockett, perhaps being relieved of his duties might help (and also relieved of the $200,000 salary). Then he could partake of living a stress-free life, and use a bicycle and public transportation to get around on.

I know Brian Crockett has done good deeds, years ago helping those with little or nothing. Whatever happens now, making one mistake shouldn't have to result in a person's reputation or career being destroyed. I’m sure no one wants to see Brian Crockett be punished for lack of good judgment, if that’s what happened, but if one person escapes paying a penalty while another one is punished, for the same deed, then is that justice? Is it the deed that matters, or does social context (work, family, community) – and character - count just as much? See ‘If Michael Bryant should be judged on his merits, shouldn't we all?, May 26, 2010).

Added Aug 30, 2012

In December, 2005, while still living in the UK, where I had been doing a PhD, I started writing a blog, and one of the first pieces I wrote was about an entertainment writer – Nick Douglas - who had committed suicide (Taking action to prevent, or passively doing nothing, Dec 22, 2005). A magazine writer – Barry O’Kane - claimed afterwards that it was the actions of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HPFA) that had driven him to it, by taking away his livelihood (Golden Globes 'forced writer to suicide,' Dec 22, 2005).

In response, the HPFA claimed that it was simply untrue that Mr Douglas had been denied the opportunity to make a living as an entertainment journalist. And yet, taking away Douglas’s access to resources, and undermining his attempts to be reconized and gain access to important activities of the HPFA, in effect, did limit his capacity to make a living. Douglas was able to continue trying to make do, without the support of the members of the association he belonged to. But without their support, his efforts were almost guaranteed to fail.

Sometimes people like to pretend that a person’s ability to succeed at their career depends on merit, when the real truth is that the person’s social network, membership in the right organizations, and family and community status matter more. People in power may pretend they have done the right thing in allowing someone to continue to work, and may not be doing anything that would actively prevent the person from pursuing their career, but their passive approach could be enough to prevent that person from moving forward.

On reading Jennifer Wells’s article on Michael Bryant’s memoir, we learn that he said nothing to Mr Sheppard throughout the 28 seconds. “I didn’t want to provoke him in any way,” he says. “I didn’t say anything to him at all” (Michael Bryant’s memoir 28 Seconds, Aug 18, 2012).

And yet, isn’t it just this sort of passivity that can cause harm – at least misunderstandings – through lack of communication? What if Bryant had tried to talk to Darcy, to apologize for his car lurching forward, unintentionally, he says, as it had stalled. Why didn’t he explain this to the person who needed to hear it – Darcy Sheppard - instead of to readers of his book?

Which one is the victim, when we look at the story in its broadest terms? Who has been hardest done by, and whose life stagnates as the rich and powerful seek out ‘understanding’ and ‘justice,’ on their own behalf?

Additional information: added Nov 8, 2012

The Brian Crockett impaired driving case has ended, with a fine and a 12 month loss of driver’s licence for The Crown attorney (See Oxford Crown attorney Brian Crockett pleads guilty to impaired driving, London Free Press, Nov 7, 2012; Oxford Crown attorney Brian Crockett pleads guilty to impaired driving, Woodstock Sentinel-Review, Nov 7, 2012).

Another noteworthy case is that of Bonita Purtill, also coming out of Woodstock, which ended in Sept, 2012, with a 7 year prison sentence (see ‘The Bonita Purtill impaired driving case: unanswered questions and other matters’ Oct 17, 2012).

The Bonita Purtill impaired driving case: unanswered questions and other matters
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Oct 17, 2012

Bryant charged with criminal negligence after crash

Sept 1, 2009

Court date set for Crown facing impaired charges
By Heather Rivers and Ron Thomson
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Aug 22, 2012

For Michael Bryant, an extraordinary kind of justice
By Christie Blatchford
Globe and Mail
May 25, 2010

Golden Globes 'forced writer to suicide' (added Aug 30, 2012)
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Independent online World News - Americas
Dec 22, 2005

If Michael Bryant should be judged on his merits, shouldn't we all?
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
May 26, 2010

Impaired Driver   (link added Aug 26, 2012)
Excerpt from Media Release prepared by: S/Sgt Shelton
Woodstock Police Service
Aug 19, 2012

Kudos for cops in Crockett arrest
By Andrea Demeer
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Aug 23, 2012

Michael Bryant and Darcy Sheppard: divided by class
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Sept 10, 2009

Michael Bryant’s memoir 28 Seconds recounts tragic death of bicycle courier (added Aug 30, 2012)
By Jennifer Wells
The Star
Aug 18, 2012

Oxford County Crown Attorney Brian Crockett faces impaired driving charge
By Ron Thomson
Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Aug 20, 2012

Police reject Michael Bryant’s criticism of probe into fatal 2009 incident
The Star
Aug 21, 2012

Taking action to prevent, or passively doing nothing: is there a diffference? (added Aug 30, 2012)
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 22, 2005

4 August 2012

Here Comes the Judge: Lori Douglas (Manitoba)

The inquiry is examining whether Douglas should lose her job because she failed to disclose the matter of the photos and solicitation of sex partners when she was appointed a judge in 2005 (Blackmail risk kept Manitoba judge from prior appointment, July 27, 2012).

That is not the entire purpose of the inquest, but this will be the focus here. Lori Douglas is the name of the lawyer who eventually became a judge in 2005, after at least one attempt previously. Jack King is her husband, whose actions, apparently without her knowing of them, got her into a great deal of trouble. Alex Chapman is the name of the man - the black man – who King attempted to enlist to have sex with his wife, and to whom he showed photos of his naked wife. These are the main players in this scenario, with additional characters consisting of their lawyers and other members of the Judiciary and the legal system – as well as the media, without which we wouldn’t have a story at all. For a brief outline and interesting comments on the case see ‘Testimony expected today from man who complained about Manitoba judge in sexually explicit photos’ (July 16, 2012).

At the end of July, 2012, in the final session before taking a break for several months, until December, 2012, it was revealed that Lori Douglas had previously applied to become a judge, in 2003, before applying and being accepted in 2005 (Blackmail risk kept Manitoba judge, July 27, 2012). The first time, someone at the Judicial Affairs Commission, which was responsible for making the decision about Ms Douglas, discovered that nude pictures had been taken of Douglas and made public.

According to this CBC news article, “Manitoba Chief Justice Marc Monnin opposed Douglas's appointment because of the potential risk of embarrassment and blackmail” though who informed him and whether Ms Douglas knew herself about the photos at this time isn’t clearly stated in the article.

Two years later, when Ms Douglas once again went through the process to become a judge, she was required to disclose on the form if there was anything in her past that might embarrass the Judiciary. This same article (Blackmail risk kept Manitoba judge, July 27, 2012), doesn’t actually state whether she did or did not disclose this on the form, as required. She did, however, apparently have a confidential conversation about it with Margaret Rose Jamieson, executive director of appointments with the the Federal Judicial Affairs Commission (JAC) from 2003 to 2009. Margaret Jamieson, now retired, said she recalls Douglas told her at the time about photos “that may have been provided to someone or posted on the internet.”

Although Manitoba Chief Justice Marc Monnin had opposed Douglas's appointment due to the possible risk of embarrassment and blackmail, he withdrew his opposition in 2005 under the assumption that the photos “had been destroyed and the matter wouldn't resurface.”

Martin Freedman, Manitoba Appeal Court Judge and head of the Judicial Advisory Committee (JAC) in 2005, said that he had heard a few years earlier that photos of the naked Lori Douglas had been posted online, and heard about the sex solicitation, but apparently the original concerns of embarassment and blackmail had ceased to be, and Douglas was made a judge in 2005.

The claim that there was nothing of concern regarding Lori Douglas having anything she should disclose before her selection in 2005 to be a judge seems to be illogical. Supposedly acting on the belief that nothing would be raised that could embarrass the Judiciary, it was decided it was appropriate to make her a judge. And yet the selection process itself was conducted in a secretive manner, with no official form completed by Lori Douglas on which she declares potentially embarrassing events from her past, such as the photos online and the sex solicitation. It was only on the belief of certain officials of the JAC, rather than on the existence of potentially damaging material and events, that the final decision was made.

One very emphatic comment on this subject, of the potential for embarassment of the photos online, comes from ‘G P’, on July 28, 2012, following the article ‘Man. judge disclosed nude photos, inquiry hears’ (July 27, 2012):

“In assuming these photos ceased to exist because Chapman agreed to destroy the ELECTRONIC COPIES sent to him by King, those responsible for vetting Douglas demonstrate a jaw-dropping ignorance of how the Internet operates. The Internet consists of HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of computers around the world, all interconnected. Setting aside the mail servers used, when someone anywhere in the world, views a webpage, a copy, complete with pictures, is saved (cached) on multiple, intermediate servers, to reduce network latency and congestion. Those intermediate servers (and the path can change from one request to the next) are all backed up daily, as a matter of standard operating procedure. Deleting the photos from the original site has absolutely no effect on these cached and backup copies, reducing King’s hush money agreement with Chapman to absurdity. No custodian of an Internet server outside Canada cares about any pronouncement from a Manitoba judge. When the judge’s husband posted them on the Internet he, albeit unwittingly, put them in the public domain. Further, every viewer of a photo King posted had a copy cached on their local machine, automatically by their web browser, plus anyone who liked what they saw had only to ‘right-click, save’ to overtly preserve it for future enjoyment anytime they like, for as long as they choose. For the sake of brevity, I will simply say King’s distribution of the photos by unencrypted email compounds the number of machines with copies. Why is this an issue and why does it matter? It has been established that the existence of the photos was well known in the legal community, thus it was possible for any client to learn of their existence. If such a client was facing a huge distribution of assets and/or contentious child custody issues in a divorce before Judge Douglas, the fact the photos were thought to be secret for seven years left the judge vulnerable to blackmail from EVERY litigant in her court. To find the photos, one need only visit a few Internet chat rooms and discussion boards, anonymously through a proxy server, placing an ad offering $XXXX to anyone who could retrieve them. Even now, I bet I could get copies of the photos within a week, if the reward I offered was sufficient to arouse interest. Making the payment anonymously, the motivated litigant could send the photos to Judge Douglas by mail, maintaining end-to-end, plausible deniability, in case the blackmail effort should backfire” (GP).

I’m sure most people would agree. Once something is posted to the internet it can never be guaranteed that it will disappear completely. And it is this that makes the decision to allow Lori Douglas to become a judge at all seem na├»ve, or uncaring of the implications of such secrets having to be kept.

It’s easy to say that a person’s personal sex life is nobody’s business, and that what the judge does has no effect on how well she does her job, but we do live in a society that is governed by people’s conformity to norms. While these have changed greatly over the years, the fact is, they exist.

People might heap praise upon the judge, for example, Vivian Hilder, law prof at the University of Manitoba, who wrote in an email that “Lori's professional reputation in my opinion is that she was a top notch family lawyer, is a good negotiator, was a good choice as a Family Division judge when she was appointed and has been a good judge in the Division to date” (Lori Douglas sex scandal inquiry, July 27, 2012). But is it her ability that is in question, or her credibility?

Even if she is found innocent of any attempt to deceive the JAC, after having such photos of herself displayed and her sexual activities made public, is it possible that she would be treated with respect, by the defendants and witnesses in cases she oversees in the future?

This case is about more than just her sex life being an open book. It’s about women’s sex lives being treated like men’s, even though they’re not the same, and even though photos of naked women are much more profitable and desirable and subject to humiliation and/or reward than photos of naked men.

There’s more of a double standard in this area than any other I can think of, and yet . . . . are we ready for this? In one article, the traumatized Alex Chapman tells how difficult the entire process has been, reminiscent of times when women had trouble having their cases of sexual assault and harassment heard (Manitoba judge sex inquiry called 'bloody coverup,' July 17, 2012.)

Something I have noticed among the general population, is that those who are most sexually active often have a heightened sense of themselves as superior to those who aren’t, and often have little understanding of or appreciation for people who are not sexually active. I am reminded of the abortion movement, which for some time was called the Pro-abortion movement, then changed to ‘pro-choice’ which is what it should be about, with neither side - the pro-choice or pro-life - being ‘better’ than the other.

In a similar way, being sexually liberated shouldn’t automatically mean being sexually active or even actively promoting sex for others. Rather, it should mean being aware of what’s right for you at any given time of your life, and being respectful of others’ choices, limitations, and needs and desires. Unfortunately, life’s not like that.

In the case of the judge Lori Douglas, the Judiciary didn’t disapprove of her sex life. They disapproved of it being made public. So is this an example of a woman gaining favour through her sexual activities, or someone who is being punished because of them? Is a rap on the knuckles enough?

What would a solution look like that was neither of these two – neither a favour nor a punishment? Or could it be both?

Blackmail risk kept Manitoba judge from prior appointment
CBC News
Jul 27, 2012

Lori Douglas sex scandal inquiry: Manitoba judge and husband Jack King known as standout Winnipeg lawyers
By Josh Tapper , Staff Reporter
The Star
July 27, 2012

Man. judge disclosed nude photos, inquiry hears
The Canadian Press
CTV News
July 27, 2012, updated July 28, 2012

Manitoba judge sex inquiry called 'bloody coverup'
yahoo.com - CBC News
July 17, 2012

Testimony expected today from man who complained about Manitoba judge in sexually explicit photos
The Canadian Press
National Post
July 16, 2012

Additional sources

Canada’s Bondage Judge Faces Judicial Inquiry This Month
By Georgialee Lang
May 2, 2012

Jack King falls on his sword over nude photos of judge wife - plus comments
By Christie Blatchford
National Post Full Comment
July 24, 2012

Judge sex controversy lawsuit quashed
Nov 16, 2010
CBC News

Manitoba judge upfront about nude photos when screened for bench, judge testifies
Winnipeg — The Canadian Press
Globe and Mail
July 27, 2012

Man. judge disclosed nude photos, inquiry hears
The Canadian Press
July 27, 2012, last updated July 28, 2012

Man says he never talked sex with Manitoba judge in naked photos case
Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
The Star
July 17, 2012

Manitoba judge sex inquiry called 'bloody coverup'
yahoo.com - CBC News
July 17, 2012

Nude photo controversy was 'well-known' in Manitoba's legal community, husband says
By Steve Lambert
Winnipeg — The Canadian Press
Globe and Mail
July 25, 2012

Photos of Manitoba judge beyond sadness
By Heather Mallick, Columnist
The Star
July 24, 2012

Testimony expected today from man who complained about Manitoba judge in sexually explicit photos plus comments
The Canadian Press
National Post
July 16, 2012