Former Scarborough Mayor Paul Cosgrove leaves court after a Canadian Judicial Council hearing with lawyer Chris Paliare.
Credits: FILE PHOTO
But it does pose the question: Who stands in judgment of our judges and the discharge of their duties?
Canadian judges rarely face disciplinary hearings for misconduct and are almost never booted out of their jobs.
They are independent and free to rule, for example, against the very politicians who appoint them to these powerful positions for life.
Some say the fact few judges are slated for disciplinary hearings is a healthy sign that members of our judiciary don't commit egregious acts such as accepting bribes or extorting sexual favours.
Judges don't lose their jobs because they make bad decisions such as overly harsh or lenient sentences or a wrong verdict. Higher courts are supposed to correct those mistakes.
It's up to the Canadian or Ontario Judicial Council to determine whether judges should remain on the bench. But it's ultimately up to the politicians to fire them.
The Ontario Judicial Council -- which governs provincially-appointed judges such as those on the Ontario Court of Justice -- consists of prominent judges, lawyers and four provincial appointees.
The Canadian Judicial Council consists of 39 judges, the elites or chief justices, associate chiefs and others, who are the watchdogs over the 1,100 or so federally appointed judges of the Superior Courts across the country.
About three years, Justice Paul Cosgrove was on the brink of making dubious legal history.
The former federal Liberal cabinet minister and Scarborough, ON, mayor was one step away from becoming the first Superior Court judge ever removed from office by Parliament.
It was only the second time the council has recommended a federally appointed judge be turfed out of office. Justice Jean Bienvenue of the Quebec Superior Court authored his judicial demise by making sexist comments about women and quit in 1996 before Parliament could write his final chapter.
Cosgrove dodged that dubious distinction by resigning -- just eight months shy of his 75th birthday, the mandatory retirement age for judges.
If Parliament had tossed him out after his 25-year career as a judge, he could have risked losing his lucrative $170,000-a-year pension.
The Canadian Judicial Council recommended in April 2009 that Cosgrove lose his job because of his outrageous handling of a high-profile murder case.
The council found Cosgrove "failed in the execution of the duties of his judicial office and that public confidence in his ability to discharge those duties in future has been irrevocably lost."
Cosgrove was appointed to the bench in 1984 after serving as public works minister and Scarborough mayor.
Cosgrove's troubles began after he made 150 erroneous findings of misconduct by the Crown and police at the 1997 first-degree murder trial of Julia Elliott in Brockville, ON After the Crown successfully appealed a stay of proceedings in 2003, Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant launched a CJC complaint against Cosgrove.
Elliott, then 45, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2005 and sentenced to a further seven years for the August 1995 stabbing and dismemberment of Kemptville, ON, auto mechanic Larry Foster, 64.
Prominent defence lawyer Clay Ruby, who believes the system of judging judges should be opened up to the public, said the system worked in this case.
"The primary goal is to protect the public and protect the integrity of the judicial service," Ruby said.
"You affect that result by letting someone resign just as much as if you threw them out. The extra humiliation and punishment is, from that perspective, unnecessary."
Ruby said the main reason few judges face these hearings is that the overwhelming majority of them behave honourably. Canada is well-served by an honest judiciary unlike other countries where judges can be bribed.
But on those occasions where judges misbehave the public should be able to observe the entire proceedings so that they can appreciate the ultimate outcome, Ruby said.
"There should be more transparency so that the public can see the whole process unfold from the beginning. Some act as if the sky would fall if they did so. There's no evidence of that," Ruby said.
After the hearings, judgments are released.
There has been one judge ordered removed by the Ontario Judicial Council in recent memory.
Judge Walter Hryciuk -- dubbed the "Kissing Judge" -- was ordered removed from the bench in 1993 after an Ontario Judicial Council inquiry into sexual misconduct allegations involving two female Crown attorneys.
Justice Jean MacFarland ruled Hryciuk wasn't fit for the job after hearing allegations that Hryciuk had French-kissed Crown Kelly Smith after bail court at Old City Hall court in Toronto in 1992 (he denied it); that he had told Crown Susan Lawson that she could "flick my switch anytime'' in 1988; and had grabbed the buttocks of former court reporter Kelly James at a Christmas party in 1991.
Hryciuk later was vindicated in 1996 by the Ontario Court of Appeal after it ruled the inquiry judge unfairly allowed three new misconduct complaints -- James plus two others -- to be added to the inquiry.
Hryciuk never returned to the bench, but was paid for years until he retired in 1998. He never had his second inquiry, although his lawyer said he was eager to proceed.
Lawyer Brian Greenspan, who successfully convinced the appeals court that MacFarland "exceeded her jurisdiction" by permitting the additional complaints -- including one in which a female judge allegedly had her buttocks patted by Hryciuk. Both she and Hryciuk denied the event but another male judge testified he saw it.