Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jean-Guy Boilard: Not Exactly a Hanging Judge

This is the man who, as a justice of the Cour supérior du Québec, handed down a wrist-slapping to sponsorship scandal defendant Paul "I Still Have a Half-Million of Your Tax Dollars" Coffin. (In all fairness, we can't say we weren't warned about his intention; as Proud To Be a Canadian points out, the judge said he planned on being lenient.)

As it turns out, this isn't the first time he's been mired in controversy. This is the same judge who pulled himself out of the "mega-trial" of Quebec's Hell's Angels in 2002.

It seems that, back in 2001, he was hauled before the Canadian Judicial Council for being nasty to a lawyer:

The Panel dealt with a complaint sent to the Council in July 2001 by a Quebec lawyer, Maître Gilles Doré. In his complaint, Me Doré complained about the attitude, conduct and behaviour of the judge in relation to himself as a lawyer. The complainant alleged that the judge was incapable of performing the role of judge.

The Committee decided not to recommend any investigation pursuant to subsection 63(2) of the Judges Act. The Panel nevertheless concluded that some of the judge's remarks in relation to the lawyer were unjustified and unacceptable. Mr. Justice Boilard was advised of the Panel's concerns in a letter of the same date to him from the Chairperson of the Panel, and the Council's file was closed.

This reprimand apparently led Justice Boilard to recuse himself from the "mega-trial" of Quebec bikers later in July 2002, which upset Quebec's Attorney-General:

The Attorney General of Quebec asked the Council on October 28, 2002 to carry out an inquiry into whether Mr. Justice Boilard's July 22, 2002 decision to abandon the conduct of a "Hell's Angels mega-trial"constituted misconduct or grounds for removal under terms of the Judges Act.

Mr. Justice Boilard had been the subject of a complaint from lawyer Gilles Doré about a previous case, which led a Panel of the Council to express disapproval of the judge's "lack of patience and excessive remarks".

Mr. Justice Boilard stated that because of what he termed the "reprimand" he felt he no longer had "the moral authority, and perhaps also the necessary capacity," to preside over the bikers' trial and he was thinking about retirement. At the time, 113 witnesses had been heard and 1,114 exhibits entered in the record.

The CDC eventually decided that the judge had misunderstood the nature of the reprimand, resulting in a bad decision. It concluded that while his decision may have been improper, it wasn't enough to constitute removing him from the bench. And in December of that month, the Council overruled its inquiry committee and decided that the decision wasn't even improper.

It should be understood that this isn't a bad judge. Last year he also quashed motions to stop the extradition of alleged Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto, wanted for 3 murders in the U.S. in 1981.

What Boilard is, though, is a judge with a sense of proportion. Given the complications he's had to deal with in past cases featuring real organized criminals, Coffin probably struck him as being a rank amateur. (And he had to be an amateur, to go through $1.5 million so quick that he had to go into debt to pay it back.)

Jean Brault and Chuck Guité, on the other hand, are a different matter. Since the charges against them are far more serious, I'd be curious to see how they do.