Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas.
Credits: QMI AGENCY FILES
Effective immediately, Guy Pratte has resigned as independent counsel for the judicial inquiry into the conduct of Justice Lori Douglas.
No reasons were offered by the Canadian Judicial Council for the departure of Pratte, a lawyer appointed to represent the public at the inquiry taking place in Winnipeg.
"Really, there's very little more I can say," Norman Sabourin, executive director for the judicial body, said in a brief telephone interview from Ottawa.
A new person will be appointed as independent counsel "as soon as possible," the council said.
Sabourin declined to speculate on whether the inquiry would be delayed by the search for a new lawyer, saying future hearing dates have yet to be set.
"Nothing has been cancelled because nothing is confirmed," he said.
It appears Pratte's departure isn't a surprise.
In late July, Pratte had threatened to step down after the inquiry panel ruled that proceedings would continue following allegations of bias against Douglas. Her lawyer, Sheila Block, asked that the inquiry be dissolved, alleging aggressive questioning by inquiry counsel George Macintosh was clearly biased against Douglas.
On July 28, Pratte appeared to side with Block and he may step down, telling the inquiry's chairwoman he wants time to "think about" and read the panel's ruling.
Pratte could not be reached for comment.
The inquiry will decide if Douglas is fit to remain on the bench.
Among the issues under examination is whether Douglas is guilty of sexually harassing Alex Chapman, a former client of her husband, Winnipeg lawyer Jack King, who has admitted trying to lure Chapman into a sexual affair with his wife and posting nude pictures online.
The proceedings will also weigh whether Douglas failed to disclose the situation when she applied to become a judge.