The Canadian Judicial Council has announced a public inquiry into the conduct of the Ontario judge overseeing Essar Steel Algoma’s restructuring. The inquiry will focus on an unrelated matter involving a land claim at Sauble Beach

SooToday.com, February 14, 2017
By David Helwig

The Ontario Superior Court justice overseeing Essar Steel Algoma’s insolvency proceedings faces possible removal from the bench for remarks he’s alleged to have made about a First Nation land claim.

The Canadian Judicial Council announced Tuesday that it will hold a public inquiry into the conduct of Justice Frank Newbould.

“If proven, the allegations surrounding the intervention of Justice Newbould in the context of a court case, could be so serious that they may warrant the judge’s removal from office,” the judical council said in a statement released Tuesday.

Graeme Hamilton of the National Post is reporting that the judge is alleged to have made public comments and written letters relating to a Saugeen First Nation claim on land near his cottage at Sauble Beach, Ontario.

Justice Newbould is 73 years old and has advised that he intends to retire on June 1 “for unrelated personal reasons,” Hamilton says, adding that “upon retirement, any outstanding judicial council complaint would be dropped.”

Jennifer Brown at Canadian Lawyer blogged on Tuesday that the complaint against Newbould from the Indigenous Bar Association in 2015 was initially dismissed, but that group asked in June 2015 that the decision be reconsidered.

Tuesday’s decision to hold a public inquiry into Newbould’s conduct was made after what the judicial council termed a “careful review of the matter.”
The following is the full text of the Canadian Judicial Council’s announcement:

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Canadian Judicial Council constitutes a public inquiry into the conduct of the Honourable F.J.C. Newbould

OTTAWA 13 February, 2017– The Canadian Judicial Council announced today that an inquiry committee will be held under the Judges Act about the Honourable Frank J.C. Newbould of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

The decision was made by a judicial conduct review panel of five members which, in accordance with council’s 2015 procedures brought in additional transparency and public participation to the process.

The panel was comprised of three members of council, one puisne judge and one layperson.

Members of the panel reviewed allegations relating to the judge’s participation in a debate on a proposed settlement to a boundary dispute which was the subject of a land claim involving a First Nation in Ontario.

After a careful review of the matter, the panel agreed that if proven, the allegations surrounding the intervention of Justice Newbould in the context of a court case, could be so serious that they may warrant the judge’s removal from office.

Accordingly, an inquiry committee must hear the matter.

It’s important to note that all allegations regarding the judge have not been proven.

The inquiry committee will have the responsibility of establishing the facts about this case and of presenting a report to the council.

In accordance with council’s inquiries and investigations bylaws, the inquiry committee will be comprised of an uneven number of members, the majority of which will be council members.

The minister of justice will be invited to designate one or more members of the bar.

In accordance with the council’s bylaws, the minister has 60 days to respond to this invitation.

Additional details, including the names of the inquiry committee members and of independent counsel, will be made public over the coming weeks.

Information about the role of the Canadian Judicial Council in administering an effective complaints review process, including its complaints procedures, and policies regarding inquiries can be found on the council’s website at www.cjc-ccm.ca

Ontario judge faces possible removal for speaking against land claim near family cottage

National Post, February 14, 2017
By Graeme Hamilton

The property across the road from the beach has been in Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Newbould’s family for nearly 100 years. Newbould himself has “been cottaging at Sauble Beach since 1943 when first born,” he wrote in 2014.

At the time, the town of South Bruce Peninsula, which encompasses Lake Huron’s Sauble Beach, was debating whether to accept a land claim settlement that would have extended the territory of the Saugeen First Nation to within about 400 metres of Newbould’s cottage.

In two detailed letters and a presentation at a public meeting, the respected judge spelled out why the town should fight the land claim. The First Nation’s case for expanding its reserve, which was supported by the federal government, was based on a flawed interpretation of historical land surveys, Newbould said.

Saying he was “speaking as a cottage owner,” he warned that agreeing to the claim could change the character of the beach. The native band would likely seek revenue by allowing cars on the beach, charging user fees and selling cigarettes, as it did on a portion of the 11-kilometre beach already under the band’s control.

Now, as he nears retirement, Newbould’s intervention to protect the beach of his childhood summers risks tarnishing a reputation that saw him named one of the 25 most influential members of the legal profession last year by Canadian Lawyer magazine.

On Monday, the Canadian Judicial Council announced that it will conduct a public inquiry into Newbould’s conduct in relation to the land claim. A CJC review panel concluded that, if proven, the allegations that Newbould intervened in the context of a court case “could be so serious that they may warrant the judge’s removal from office,” the council said in a statement.

The detailed allegations have not yet been made public, but they stem from a complaint by the Indigenous Bar Association. Scott Robertson, vice-president of the IBA, said Newbould’s 2014 intervention helped derail the Saugeen First Nation’s “hard-fought negotiations” to resolve its land claim. The matter is now before the courts. Robertson said it was improper for Newbould to take a stand on an issue that he knew could wind up before the Superior Court.

In a statement Tuesday, Newbould’s lawyer said the CJC had already reviewed a complaint from the IBA and dismissed it in January 2015. The lawyer, Brian Gover, said the chairperson of the CJC’s judicial conduct committee determined it was not in the public interest to investigate the complaint.

Gover said the case was resurrected after the president of the IBA, Koren Lightning-Earle, asked the CJC to reconsider its decision and threatened possible “political action” if it did not.
Newbould maintains that once the complaints were dismissed, the CJC has no jurisdiction to reconsider a closed complaint. A CJC spokeswoman said the council reopened the file after receiving additional information.

Newbould apologized in 2014 “due to the perception caused by the fact he is a judge,” Gover said. He declined to specify to whom the apology was made. “Throughout the entirety of his distinguished judicial career, Justice Newbould has carried out his duties effectively and without bias,” he added.

The CJC is mandated to review complaints against federally appointed judges. Its chairwoman is Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, and its other 38 members are all senior judges.

“It’s important to note that all allegations regarding the judge have not been proven,” the council said in its statement announcing the inquiry into Newbould’s conduct.

And it is very possible they will never even be heard.

Gover said that Newbould, who is 73 and was named to the bench in 2006, has already informed the justice minister that he plans to retire on June 1 “for unrelated personal reasons.” Upon retirement, any outstanding judicial council complaint would be dropped.