WINNIPEG -- The future of an inquiry examining the conduct of Associate Chief Justice Lori Douglas will be decided Friday morning.
Douglas' lawyers are asking that the inquiry be dissolved, alleging aggressive questioning Wednesday by inquiry counsel George Macintosh was clearly biased against Douglas.
"It is too late to right the ship," lawyer Sheila Block told the inquiry panel. "In my respectful submission, this cannot be fixed." Macintosh cross-examined Jack King for a full hour, questioning him about nude pictures he took of his wife and what she knew or did not know about them.
King had already been questioned on the same points by independent inquiry counsel Guy Pratte.
Macintosh is directly attached to the inquiry, while Pratte is an independent lawyer appointed to represent the public.
King, a divorce lawyer, has admitted trying to lure client Alex Chapman into a sexual tryst with Douglas in 2003 and directing him to a sex website where he had posted sexually graphic photos of Douglas.
Both King and Douglas say Douglas was unaware of King's actions.
The inquiry is tasked with determining whether Douglas is guilty of sexually harassing Chapman, as he alleges, whether she failed to disclose the affair when she applied to become a judge, and whether the existence of the Internet pictures have made it impossible for Douglas to remain on the bench.
Block said Macintosh's cross-examination went far beyond the "clarification" Macintosh suggested he was looking for when he started questioning King.
Macintosh's questions "displayed an animus and bias against the respondent," Block said. "At the very least they raised an apprehension of bias.
"The continuation of this hearing in view of this conduct is now poisoned."
Allowing Macintosh to question King as he did could lead the public to conclude the inquiry has taken on a prosecutorial role, said Pratte, who threatened to step down if the inquiry panel allows such questioning to continue.
"The appearance is incontestable that it was a strong, co-ordinated attack on a witness," Pratte said.
Earlier in the week, King objected to Pratte questioning him about a conversation King argued was protected from examination by the inquiry.
The objection was then considered by the inquiry panel and a ruling issued allowing Pratte's questions.
"Imagine if (King) made that objection to Mr. Macintosh," Pratte said. "What chance would he have when (Macintosh) was acting for you?
"What I do, right or wrong, aggressively or not, cannot be ascribed to you," Pratte said. "The solution for you is not to descend into the arena -- but you did."
Douglas has yet to testify at the inquiry which, prior to Thursday's developments, was expected to be adjourned to late September. email@example.com