JP retires before his scheduled discipline hearing
Critics want provincial law changed so retired justices can answer complaints and be held accountable
Less than a month before he was set to face a discipline hearing for allegedly making racist remarks about Indigenous people in court, Kenora Justice of the Peace Robert Mcnally retired.
As a result, the public hearing into his case scheduled for this month was scrapped, as the law does not allow for the disciplining of retired justices of the peace and provincial court judges.
Critics say it’s time for that to change, and to bring the system closer in line with other bodies that maintain jurisdiction for discipline over retired professionals, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.
“There is a public interest in judicial oversight bodies retaining jurisdiction to in- vestigate complaints and make appropriate findings against judicial officers even when they retire or resign,” said Michael Lacy, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, one of the organizations that had complained about Mcnally to the Justices of the Peace Review Council.
“Although sanctions might be limited in such a case, there is value in allowing hearings to proceed. It would provide an opportunity for the judicial officer to answer the complaint and potentially clear his or her name in the face of a serious allegation,” Lacy said.
Mcnally, whose retirement was effective Dec. 31, is the fourth justice of the peace in less than four years to avoid facing a discipline hearing by retiring. In some of the other cases, the council recommended that the retired justices be compensated for part of their legal costs, even though no hearing ended up being held.
Judges and justices of the peace have also retired while their cases were being investigated by council complaints committees; in those circumstances, their names are kept secret and only a summary of the complaint against them is published in the councils’ annual reports.
Justices of the peace earn about $132,000 a year, and are appointed by the province. Dressed in black robes and green sashes, they conduct bail hearings, sign off on search warrants and preside over trials in provincial offences court, which deals with non-criminal matters.
As first reported by the Star , Mcnally was alleged to have made racist remarks in bail court in August 2017 to lawyer Shannon Mcdunnough, who is Mi’kmaq.
Robert Mcnally, who retired on Dec. 31, was accused of making racist comments.