Comparing two Canadian Judges: ‘Knees Together Robin Camp’ vs ‘Backroom Bryan Shaughnessy’

Justices ‘Knees Together’ Robin Camp (left) and ‘Backroom Bryan’ Shaughnessy

Which judge committed the most egregious offense?

Former Canadian Federal Court judge Robin ‘Knees Together’ Camp has applied to be reinstated as a lawyer in Alberta. The hearing will be held next week on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.

Mr. Camp resigned from the Federal Court in March 2017 after the Canadian Judicial Council found that his conduct was ‘manifestly and profoundly destructive of the concept of impartiality’. This was the end result of a 2014 trial where Camp asked a rape complainant why she didn’t keep her knees together and lower her bottom into a sink to avoid being penetrated.

Camp also lectured the ‘accused’ (oops… he was referring to the victim!) that “sex and pain sometimes go together, that — that’s not necessarily a bad thing” and that her attempts to fight off the rapist were feeble.

Such attitudes might be common in places like Saudi Arabia, but are unforgiveable here in Canada. The minute he uttered the words, Judge Camp’s future on the bench was sealed although it took a few years for events to play out.

During that trial Judge Camp acquitted the accused Alexandar Wagar – who now faces seven new criminal charges including assaulting and choking in entirely unrelated events.

To no avail Camp attempted to avoid being fired by taking courses in how not to blame women for being raped – but in the end his record undermined any possible confidence in his ability to be a judge.

Fair enough.

Should Robin Camp be allowed to practice as a lawyer?

It is interesting to note that many news articles about Camp mention that he is originally from South Africa. This mention of someone’s origin is unusual for the Canadian news media that normally goes to great lengths to discount an accused’s national origin and culture as irrelevant to acts committed in Canada – except that in this case Justice Camp himself blamed his South African background and 20 years practicing law there for his ‘deeply-rooted’ bias and outrageous conduct.

Whatever the origin of Mr. Camp’s attitudes and beliefs, no doubt he has by this time received the message that such standards don’t wash here. Humbled and humiliated, he has now applied to resume his law practice in Alberta.

Should he be reinstated as a lawyer? Sure. Mr. Camp is probably a capable enough lawyer and is no longer in a position of authority over victims who happen to be women. It is also reasonable to assume that he will be exceedingly cautious about his words and actions in the future.

In a time that embraces (sometimes overly so) the concepts of redemption and forgiveness, what reasonable person could oppose reinstating Robin Camp as a lawyer? Certainly Ontario’s law society that openly licenses convicted child molesters can hardly complain about Mr. Camp resuming his law practice.

At least Justice Camp’s outrageous statements were done in public on the court record – and were therefore open to discovery, scrutiny and censure. 

Backroom Bryan Shaughnessy

Contrast Robin Camp’s actions with the misconduct of Justice J. Bryan Shaughnessy of the Ontario Superior Court.

Former OPP boss Julian Fantino

Here is a sample from the September 28, 2017 sworn affidavit of Julian Fantino, former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, concerning Justice Shaughnessy’s conduct during the Donald Best civil contempt case:

  • “Court ended and the Judge (Shaughnessy) left the courtroom. The courtroom staff ended their duties and Mr. Best was taken away to prison. Then, in Mr. Best’s absence, in a backroom and off the court record with no transcript and no endorsement on the record, the Judge secretly created a new Warrant of Committal and increased Best’s time to be served in prison by 50%… this new secret Warrant of Committal was given only to the prison authorities and was not placed into the court records.”
  • “There is no justification for this which appears to be a vindictive and punitive act and it needs to be closely scrutinized.”

In other words, Bryan Shaughnessy, a Federally appointed Justice of the Ontario Superior Court, corruptly wielded his authority and power in secret, in a backroom, off the court record and with zero regard for the rule of law, transparency or accountability… just as one commonly sees in third-world backwaters where local despots misuse their authority for private purposes.

Further, Justice Shaughnessy was dealing with an unrepresented person who had already been taken away to prison. The judge knew that he could get away with this abuse because the prisoner didn’t have a lawyer and was incapable of appealing an increased sentence from prison. Further Best might not even be told by prison authorities about his increased sentence for weeks or months.

Several senior lawyers and a retired Crown Attorney call Justice Shaughnessy’s behaviour “despotic”, “disgusting”, “reprehensible”, “malicious” and “worthy of his removal from the bench.” Lawyers especially are concerned with Shaughnessy’s misconduct as his actions strike right to the foundations of our justice system and society.

Outrage vs. Cover-up

Why did Robin Camp’s misconduct receive so much condemnation and public attention from government and the news media, while Bryan Shaughnessy’s more sinister and unlawful misconduct is ignored by the press and (at least initially) was defended by both Federal and Ontario Attorneys General?

In the case of Justice Robin ‘knees together’ Camp, Alberta Attorney General Kathleen Ganley ordered the Canadian Judicial Council to hold an inquiry – which was only the eleventh inquiry in the 45 year history of the CJC.

In the case of ‘Backroom Bryan’ Shaughnessy, however, the Attorney General of Ontario initially acted as defense lawyer for the judge in a judicial review application brought by Donald Best.

So too the Attorney General of Canada initially sided with Justice Shaughnessy in the motions leading up to the Judicial Review. Ontario’s Law Society made no public comment on the case or about Justice Shaughnessy’s misconduct, but senior bencher of the Law Society Peter Wardle eventually took over as the judge’s defense lawyer when Ontario’s Attorney General withdrew from the role.

“It is not the rogue acts of a handful of judges that undermine our justice system, it is the cover-ups that do the most damage to the public’s trust and confidence in our courts.”

The news media is the same story: reporters swarmed the ‘Knees together’ inquiry which drew international attention. Camp is still in the news with his application to return to practicing law in Alberta.

With Shaughnessy’s misconduct, however, several journalists inform me that the news media issued an ‘editor’s kill’ on the story – perhaps because of libel chill or due to the powerful influence of the Ontario legal profession’s ‘Bay Street Club’.

Even a recent sworn affidavit by Julian Fantino, former federal cabinet minister and former Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, is being suppressed in the mainstream news media – despite the fact that Fantino names names and presents credible, professional evidence of disturbing misconduct by police, lawyers and Justice Shaughnessy.

Perhaps it boils down to this…

Judges who take drugs, pat their secretary’s bottom, get caught shoplifting or drunk driving are easy to deal with. Camp falls into this category with his outrageous ‘knees together’ comments.

More difficult for society and those who administer our justice system is when judges go rogue and totally misuse their power and authority. This is when the Canadian Judicial Council and the entire legal profession back away – because to deal openly with culprits like Bryan Shaughnessy is to admit that such abuses happen. Exposure and discussion of this, the profession believes, undermines public confidence in the entire justice system.

And so they cover-up – but they are wrong to do so.

It is not the rogue acts of a handful of judges that undermine our justice system, it is the cover-ups that do the most damage to the public’s trust and confidence in our courts.

Everyone understands human weaknesses for sex, drugs, booze – but when judges conspire to obstruct justice and commit criminal offenses in some backroom… well, that’s a tougher nut to acknowledge.

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Photos have been included to put context to the article. Their use is the same as with other Canadian news outlets.

Donald Best
Barrie, Ontario, Canada