One of Yukon’s Supreme Court deputy judges holds a title shared by only three other judges in Canadian history.
Justice Joel Groves is the fourth judge on record to have one of his decisions overturned because of plagiarism.
In April 2009, Groves awarded $5 million to a mother who sued the British Columbia Women’s Hospital and Health Centre after her son suffered injuries and was left brain damaged after birth.
But the family hasn’t been able to collect any cash – and they won’t, until they go back to court.
In April, the BC Court of Appeal overturned Groves’ decision and ordered a new trial after the three appeal judges ruled that Groves plagiarized 321, of 368 paragraphs of his decision from the plaintiff’s written submissions and closing arguments.
“We conclude that the reasons for judgment must be rejected because they cannot be taken to represent the trial judge’s analysis of the issues or the reasoning for his conclusions,” two of the three appeal judges wrote in their decision. “The reasons for judgment do not meet the functional requirement of public accountability. They cannot satisfy the public that justice has been done, and would, if accepted, undermine support for the legitimacy of the justice system.”
However, an overturned decision does not provoke an investigation or review of a judge’s work or conduct.
Even if the appeal court’s decision questions a judge’s capabilities and authority, the only way a federal judge can be assessed is if a complaint is brought to the Canadian Judicial Council.
“The fact that a decision is overturned is not a finding, in any way, of fault or finding that the judge acted inappropriately,” said Lesley McCullough, the acting assistant deputy minister of court and regulatory services with the Yukon government.
And the territory does not do any sort of check on deputy judges that come up to the territory to hear cases.
Once they are appointed by the prime minister, that’s it.
Deciding which judges work in the Yukon is a pragmatic question of scheduling above all else, said McCullough.
But after hearing the BC Court of Appeal’s decision, at least one Yukoner has lost confidence in Groves’ authority.
This Yukoner, who asked to remain anonymous for fear speaking out would harm his case, has been before deputy judge Groves in the territory’s Supreme Court.
Now, this plaintiff has launched a complaint with the Canadian Judicial Council.
But until a complainant goes public, the Council cannot confirm any details of any investigation on any judges, said Julie Durette, general counsel with the council.
In the meantime, Groves is still hearing cases in the territory.
“Judicial independence is one of the foundations upon which our judicial system is built,” said McCullough. “And for that reason we do not, government does not, review or vet judges.”
If people have concerns with a judge’s decision or conduct, there are mechanisms to deal with that, she added.
Groves refused to comment for this story.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at