After reviewing a complaint against Quebec Superior Court Justice Yves Alain, who was convicted of impaired driving earlier this year, the Canadian Judicial Council has decided he can continue working as a judge.
On Dec. 7, 2005, Alain was pulled over by police who suspected he was intoxicated because he was driving erratically. Alain pleaded guilty to impaired driving and received a one-year suspension of his driving licence and a $1,300 fine.
In April 2007, after Alain’s conviction, Quebec Chief Justice Michel Robert filed a complaint against him with the Canadian Judicial Council.
Federal Court of Appeal Justice John Richard, vice chairperson of the council’s judicial conduct committee, reviewed the complaint, and closed the file last week, concluding that Alain was still able to perform his job functions fairly and impartially.
A press release and a public letter from the CJC’s executive director and general counsel Norman Sabourin to Robert explained Richard’s reasons.
“[Justice Alain] expressed sincere regrets and acknowledged that his conduct was inappropriate and that it may have tarnished the judiciary’s reputation,” wrote Sabourin.
“Justice Alain unreservedly acknowledged his responsibility, pleaded guilty to the criminal charges and accepted the sentence as recommended.
“He also indicated that he had taken concrete steps, in consultation with his chief justice, to ensure that he does not re-offend.”
The letter goes on to say Alain’s conduct was clearly inappropriate, and that impaired driving is a serious offence that must be strongly condemned.
Depending on the circumstances, a judge engaging in this type of conduct may no longer be in a position to carry out the duties of his office.
But not in this case, determined Richard, who also considered that this was an isolated incident and that Alain has a reputation for being an excellent jurist, who has the full confidence of the chief justice and others in the legal profession.
“Chief Justice Richard concluded that, taking all circumstances into account, Justice Alain is still able to perform his functions fairly and impartially,” wrote Sabourin.
The main test applied in circumstances like this is whether or not a judge’s conduct is so destructive that it damages public confidence in him, Sabourin told Law Times. “The decision made by Chief Justice Richard is that public confidence would not be undermined to the extent that it would prevent him from being a judge.”
Since the incident, Alain has primarily handled case-management duties and some administrative duties. It’s now up to his chief justice to decide if he can begin hearing cases again, says Sabourin.
“But I would expect so,” he adds.
It is extremely rare for judges to find themselves facing criminal charges, says Sabourin. The only other situation Sabourin could recall is the case of justice Robert Flahiff of the Superior Court of Quebec, who was convicted of money laundering in 1999.
Flahiff resigned after the CJC determined that a recommendation should be made for his removal from the bench.
Alain could not be reached for comment.