Quebec judge could face dismissal for refusing to hear case in January 2015

Quebec judge could face dismissal for refusing to hear case in January 2015

MONTREAL — A judicial inquiry committee is recommending a Quebec judge be dismissed for refusing to hear a spat between neighbours and for suggesting too strongly they negotiate a settlement in a small-claims matter.

The five-member committee concluded the proposed sanction against Quebec court Judge Peter Bradley is severe but deserved, given he was the subject of a similar complaint a few years earlier for which he received a reprimand.

The recommendation to remove a provincially appointed judge from the bench is exceedingly rare — the council says it has had only seven such recommendations since 1978.

At the heart of the matter is a legal fight between neighbours over $472.45 worth of damage to a fence, a case Bradley presided over and ultimately refused to hear in January 2015.

Following the hearing, a complaint was filed about the judge’s refusal to hear the case, the nature of the exchanges and Bradley’s perceived sharp and even hostile tone, in particular with regard to the plaintiff.

The committee noted in a written decision that Bradley, without hearing any of the evidence, urged the two sides to settle and told them from the get-go certain elements of the application wouldn’t be granted.

Bradley repeatedly insisted it was better for the two sides to settle the matter.

The parties wanted the hearing to proceed but the judge dismissed a request for the filing of a document, adjourned the case and divested himself.

The committee unanimously felt Bradley failed in his mission but only three members of the panel agreed with applying the harshest punishment.

“Before a judge who clearly refuses to exercise the duties assigned to him, presiding over the small claims division, and consequently refusing to perform the function for which he was appointed, only one conclusion can be reached: removal,” the report said.

Bradley defended his actions, telling the committee it was his duty by law to seek conciliation between the parties.

The committee emphasized, however, that conciliation must be offered, not imposed.

It also found Bradley’s comments toward the complainant to be “displaced and offensive” and in violation of the code of conduct.

The report said the sanction is being recommended to ensure “the integrity of the entire judiciary.”

The Quebec Judicial Council will look at the report and make a final recommendation to Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee. The case could end up before the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Bradley was named to the bench in 2000.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press

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