Justice McLeod Cleared

Justice McLeod Cleared of Judicial Misconduct

By JACQUES GALLANTLegal Affairs Reporter
Thu., Dec. 20, 2018
 
While finding that Ontario Court Justice Donald McLeod’s work with the Federation of Black Canadians was “incompatible” with his judicial office, a discipline panel of the Ontario Judicial Council concluded it did not cross the line of undermining public confidence in the judiciary.  (RICK MADONIK / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
 

A Brampton judge has been cleared of judicial misconduct over his involvement with an advocacy group for Black Canadians.

While finding that Ontario Court Justice Donald McLeod’s work with the Federation of Black Canadians was “incompatible” with his judicial office, a discipline panel of the Ontario Judicial Council concluded it did not cross the line of undermining public confidence in the judiciary, which would have led to a misconduct verdict.

“Justice McLeod’s work as a judge and his community activities, including his educational activities, help increase public confidence in the justice system among all Ontarians,” the four-person panel, chaired by Court of Appeal Justice Robert Sharpe, said in a decision released Thursday.

“This effect is especially significant for Black Ontarians. Justice McLeod serves as a role model for members of the Black community, especially Black youth.

“His work and community efforts increase public confidence by demonstrating that judges are committed to recognizing and taking seriously the experiences of the Black community and the real problems that have led to mistrust of the justice system among the Black community.”

The panel said the rules may have been vague in the past with regards to what kind of work a judge can do outside of the courthouse. But they said they had now come to a clear line that should not be crossed in the future, namely that judges should not be engaging with politicians and trying to persuade them to reach specific policy outcomes.

McLeod is a founder of the Federation of Black Canadians, and formerly served as chair of its interim steering committee. He testified at his discipline hearing that his meetings involving federation board members and politicians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, were primarily educational, and dealt with issues such as mental health supports and the over-incarceration of Black Canadians.

Despite his testimony, the discipline panel found that McLeod did, indeed, go too far and engaged in lobbying politicians.

“We are satisfied that barring that type of engagement leaves open to judges a wide range of activity whereby judges can work for the betterment of their communities,” the panel said.

In deciding that 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.

“We are satisfied that Justice McLeod was genuinely motivated to promote public confidence in the justice system,” the panel said. “That is relevant precisely because the aim of judicial misconduct proceedings is to maintain public confidence in judicial institutions.”

McLeod will now be able to make submissions to the discipline panel as to whether it should recommend to the attorney general that he be compensated for his legal costs.

“It is fitting that the judicial council recognized that this was not a case of misconduct: indeed, that Justice McLeod as a role model in the Black community has an important continuing role to play in the community in educating the public as to the challenges facing the vulnerable and marginalized, including Black young men and women,” McLeod’s lawyer, Mark Sandler, told the Star.

 


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