Clear line drawn on appropriate judicial and adjudicator activity in support of equality seeking groups: engaging with politicians and trying to persuade them to reach specific policy outcomes

On December 20, 2018, the Ontario Judicial Counsel handed down a decision clearing the Honourable Justice Donald McLeod of judicial misconduct.

A finding of judicial misconduct can only be made where any breach of the standards of judicial conduct by the judge was “so seriously contrary to impartiality, integrity and independence of the judiciary that it has undermined the public’s confidence in the judge’s ability to perform the duties of office or in the administration of justice generally.” (para. 70 of the Reasons for Decision)

Chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe, the Ontario Judicial Council concluded that Justice McLeod’s involvement with the Federal of Black Canadians, although “incompatible” with his judicial office, did not cross the line of undermining public confidence in his capacity to carry out his judicial functions or in the administration of justice generally.

In deciding that Justice McLeod’s actions did not undermine public confidence in the judiciary, the panel noted, among other things, that he did not engage in fundraising or partisan activity; sought advice from the court’s ethics committee, and never expressed an opinion on a matter that may come before him in court. Further, the advocacy and political activity that Justice McLeod engaged in were not prolonged and they were conducted in a measured and respectful manner.

The rules of what kind of work a judge can do outside of the courthouse has been vague in the past. However, this decision clarifies the issue of advocacy and political activity by judges and defines a boundary that all judges must respect in the future, however admirable their motives may be.

Read the Toronto Star article here (link).

The Summary and the Reasons for Decision on this matter can be accessed here (link).

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