Wednesday, February 4, 2015

RE: A Complaint Against J.P. Leonard Obokata - A Classic Indemnification Case

     Here is yet another case which illustrates the point I made a few posts ago in response to the Toronto Star's irresponsible and sensational piece entitled "Tax-Payers Billed for Guilty Justices' Legal Bills" published on November 20, 2014.  The piece erroneously suggested that a 2007
legislative change created the current practice of the public "forking out" for legal fees. "A legislation change in 2007 gave the council power to conduct hearings against JP's and to ask the Attorney General to cover their legal costs. A spokesman for the AG told the Star on Thursday that the government paid the full recommended amount to all five disciplined JPs."

     As the following decision rendered by Justice Cathy Mocha sitting as Commissioner in Re: A Complaint Against J.P. Leonard Obokata on November 6, 2003 illustrates the constitutional tradition of indemnifying judicial officers for their legal costs in defending these proceedings did not come about from any legislative change in 2007.  That is a long established tradition in our legal system.

The Basic Facts:

     The complainant is a female Justice of the Peace.  Justice of the Peace X and Justice of the Peace Obokata were colleagues.  In May, 2002 an educational conference for justices of the peace was held in Toronto.  The two attended the conference. On the evening of May 2, 2002 Justice of the Peace Obokata sent out to dinner with five other justices of the peace.  Prior to dinner, Justice of the Peace Obokata consumed some alcoholic beverages in his hotel room.  He consumed more alcoholic drinks during dinner.  After dinner, Justice of the Peace Obokata, Justice of the Peace X and three other justices of the peace waled back along public streets toward their hotel several blocks from the restaurant.  While walking behind the other three justices of the peace with Justice of the Peace X, Justice of the Peace Obokata without any invitation or consent deliberately reached over and grabbed one of Justice of the Peace X's breasts and twisted his hand.  Justice of the Peace X loudly exclaimed "Lenny ! I can't believe you did that !"  Justice of the Peace Obokata then repeated the action.  Justice of the Peace X told Justice of the Peace Obokata to tell on the other Justice of the Peace walking ahead of them what he had done. He complied. The other justice of the peace suggested that Justice of the Peace Obokata did apologize but JP X did not want to  have any further conversation or contact with him.  Justice of the Peace X chose not to report the incident to the police.

The Complaint:

     Justice of the Peace X wrote to the Registrar of the Justices of the Peace Review Council on June 13, 2002 to file a complaint.  She wrote:

     "I am regretfully filing a complaint concerning the conduct of a colleague.  This difficult decision has been reached following much deliberation and soul-searching......Notwithstanding an attempt by His Worship to apologize, his behaviour was unprofessional, immoral, and reflects conduct unbecoming a judicial officer.  I remain hurt, angered and offended by his actions.  In my opinion, his disrespect constituted a total lack of sensitivity towards me personally and women in general.  I am concerned that failure on my part to bring this matter to the attention of our governing body to address this situation, may result in others being exploited."

Finding of Misconduct:

     "Justice of the Peace Obokata's behaviour on May 2, 2002 constituted a sexual assault contrary to the Criminal Code.  Justice of the Peace Obokata intentionally applied force to Justice of the Peace X without her consent in circumstances of a sexual nature such that the sexual integrity of Justice of the Peace X was violated...Having committed sexual assault, Justice of the Peace Obokata clearly misconducted himself within the meaning of section 12 of the Justices of the Peace Act."


     - that Justice of the Peace Obokata be formally reprimanded by the Review Council for his conduct and the discredit that his conduct has brought to the bench pursuant to section 12(3.3)(b) of the Act; and

     - that as a condition of continuing to sit as Justice of the Peace he be required to undergo assessment and treatment and counselling for potential alcohol abuse and gender sensitivity training with proof in writing to the satisfaction of the Justices of the Peace Review Council; and

     - that J.P. Obokata be suspended without pay for 30 days.

     Her Honour Justice Mocha reasoned that judicial officers are human beings with all the frailties that entails and acknowledged that mistakes will be made.  She went on to conclude that public confidence in this particular justice of the peace was eroded but not lost.  The key question she reasoned was whether the misconduct is a correctable error.  She found that it was and that a lack of tolerance for the misconduct can be accomplished through a penalty short of removal from office.

Indemnification for defence

     Her Honour Justice Mocha recommended that Justice of the Peace Obokata be compensated for all of his costs in connection with the Inquiry.  This is notwithstanding her  clear finding that he committed a sexual assault on a fellow justice of the peace.

NOTE:  This piece is written for the sole purpose of drawing public attention to an issue of public importance, namely, the complaint process involving justices of the peace, the right of justices of the peace to counsel and to defend themselves in such proceedings and the right of the public to be fully informed.  Democracy works best when the people are well informed.

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