Taxpayers billed for guilty justices’ legal fees
JPs found guilty of judicial misconduct are getting
their legal bills paid for by the public purse.
Since 2009, five justices of the peace found guilty by their regulatory body,
for charges including sexual harrassment, have had their legal fees compensated
to the tune of more than $200,000. From left to right are: Paul Welsh and Errol
Massiah. Not seen: Tom Foulds.
Taxpayers are picking up the legal bills of justices of the peace
disciplined for offences including sexual harassment, falling asleep in
court and demonstrating a “pervasive” lack of understanding of basic law.
Since 2009, five Ontario justices of the peace (JPs) had their legal fees
paid by taxpayers, totalling $220,000, the Star has found. Four were found
guilty of judicial misconduct, while the fifth resigned before a hearing
Three were suspended by the Justices of the Peace Review Council, which has
ruled on judicial complaints since 2007.
Toronto constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati says taxpayers should never have
to pick up the legal bill of a disciplined JP.
“If they are acting outside the scope of the law and it’s a clear breach of
their office then they should pay — no question,” Galati said.
“If you are disciplined as a doctor or a lawyer, nobody pays your fees.”
Errol Massiah was suspended
for 10 days in 2012 after the council found
he had sexually harassed female court staff.
The public forked out $123,000 for his legal fees.
Massiah is now facing another public hearing over similar allegations at a
different courthouse, where he has been accused of leering at, touching or
making sexual remarks to court clerks, prosecutors and defendants.
“Mrs. H, looking gooood,” he allegedly said to a female provincial
prosecutor while looking her up and down as she walked into the courthouse,
according to the notice of hearing. On a separate occasion, he allegedly
leaned toward her, with his mouth close to her ear and said: “Oooh, lady in
Massiah is also accused of inviting female court staff into his chambers
while he was bare-chested or taking his shirt on or off. His case is
A second JP, Solange Guberman, resigned before a panel could rule on the
litany of allegations against her.
They included a “pervasive” lack of understanding of basic law, falling
asleep in court, screaming at staff and calling them “stupid,” relying on
police officers and prosecutors for advice and speaking French when she was
aware not all parties in the court could understand.
Her legal tab of $36,000 was billed to the taxpayer.
Lawyer Doug Hunt, who presented the case against Massiah in his first
hearing, said the compensation of legal fees for JPs was “an important issue
that obviously needs to be looked at.”
“The government does not pay the legal costs of citizens who are acquitted,
let alone someone who is found guilty,” he said.
But, Hunt said it is important JPs have access to resources to defend
themselves against allegations brought forward by the government.
Justices of the peace found guilty of
judicial misconduct are getting their legal fees paid for by the
public purse. Since 2009, five justices of the peace found guilty by
their regulatory body, for charges including sexual harrassment,
have had their legal fees compensated to the tune of more than
$200,000. From left to right are: Solange Guberman and Paul
Under the Constitution, JPs are guaranteed judicial independence, Ontario
judicial registrar Marilyn King said.
“Recognizing the nature of judicial independence, higher courts have held
that judicial officers should be entitled to receive reimbursement of costs
for legal representation where the allegations are dismissed, and in some
circumstances where there is a finding of judicial misconduct,” she told the
Galati, who recently blocked a judicial appointment to the Supreme Court,
says that justification is “misguided.”
“Judicial misconduct and paying to defend judicial misconduct has nothing to
do with judicial independence,” he said.
Judicial independence is about giving judges the freedom on the bench to
make decisions without legislative influence — “not free to run amok and
then expect the taxpayer to pay for their misconduct,” Galati said.
Ian Greene, York University judicial administration expert, agreed.
“Being independent means you try your best to decide impartially, it does
not mean you have the right to be involved in sexual harassment,” he told
Ontario has about 400 JPs who preside over relatively minor provincial
offence matters, such as bail hearings and issuing search warrants.
Every year about 50 complaints are lodged against JPs, but the vast majority
are dismissed because they relate to a disagreement with judicial
decision-making, King said.
A legislation change in 2007 gave the council power to conduct hearings
against JPs and to ask the Attorney General to cover their legal costs. A
spokesman for the AG told the Star on Thursday that the government paid the
full recommended amount to all five disciplined JPs.
In 2013, Tom Foulds was suspended without pay for a week after attempting to
influence an investigation by public health inspectors into a Toronto
restaurant owned by one of his friends. The public paid $3,000 for his legal
In Foulds’ hearing, the review discussed whether a guilty JP should have
their legal costs covered.
The panel found that in cases where JPs were found guilty, their “costs
might still be warranted, but on a lower scale.” The decision is based on
factors that include the severity of the misconduct and complexity of the
Since then, two other JPs who admitted misconduct were made to pay their own
Last week, JP
who was facing allegations of misconduct and fraud,
escaped a disciplinary hearing by retiring from his post.
His allegedly inappropriate expense claims, totaling $16,400, “showed a
pattern of repeatedly providing misleading and untrue facts,” the council
said. The alleged fraud prompted criminal charges, which were later dropped.
Spadafora, 60, was due to face the allegations at a formal conduct hearing
on Nov. 24, but he chose to retire— which meant the council no longer had
jurisdiction over him, his lawyer, Mark Sandler, said.
Sandler requested the council compensate Spadafora’s legal costs. The
decision is still pending.
The guilty JPs
The five JPs found guilty of judicial misconduct who have had their legal
fees paid by the public purse:
In 2009, JP Paul Welsh, aged 60 at the time, admitted to judicial
misconduct after four unrelated charges were filed against him with the
Justices of the Peace Review Council. The allegations included an
“inappropriate demeanour and a lack of civility” during trials and that
Welsh had a perception of favour or bias towards clients who were known to
him, according to the council’s reasons for decision. Welsh admitted to
reducing Ontario Judge Martha Zivolak’s traffic fine by half to $90 and
personally paying the fine without her consent. He was charged with
obstruction of justice and received $25,931.54 from taxpayers to cover his
In 2011, JP Paul Kowarsky, aged 68 at the time, appeared before the
hearing panel when he was caught on a courtroom audio recording making
sexually inappropriate comments to a clerk. The comment involved eight
words, was “insulting and degrading” and the court clerk did not return to
work the next day, according to the council’s reasons for decision. When the
clerk complained to Kowarsky about the comments and told him she looked upon
him as a father figure, “His Worship raised his voice to the point that he
could reasonably be considered to be yelling,” the decision read. The clerk
was left shaking and crying and requested not to be assigned to his
courtroom again. Kowarsky admitted judicial misconduct and that his comment
was “completely inappropriate, unwelcomed and wrong.” He was reprimanded by
the council and taxpayers were left to cover his $32,795 legal bill.
In 2011, JP Solange Guberman, aged 65 at the time, was suspended and
then resigned before a hearing panel could make a finding into the litany of
charges against her. Guberman was accused of a “pervasive” lack of
understanding of basic law, falling asleep in the courtroom, a lack of
judicial independence, screaming at staff and calling them “stupid,”
excessively favouring the opinions of prosecutors and speaking in French
when she was aware parties in the court could not understand, according to a
notice of hearing. Guberman’s “inappropriate conduct and incompetence” was
pervasive throughout her judicial tenure, it read. She allegedly failed to
perform the duties of office and denied the fundamental rights of
defendants. Guberman resigned before the hearing and taxpayers forked out
$36,074 for her legal fees.
In 2012, JP Errol Massiah was found guilty of judicial misconduct for
sexually harassing female court staff. Now he is facing another public
hearing over similar allegations — this time from a different courthouse.
Massiah is accused of leering at, touching and making sexual or offensive
remarks to female court staff, prosecutors and defendants between 2007 and
2010, according to a complaint filed to the council. It is alleged Massiah
slowly looked female court staff up and down “giving rise to a perception of
an undressing look”. He also allegedly said to court staff: “Girl, you’re
looking good today” and “those pants look really good on you.” He was
accused of “eyeballing” and staring at the chest of a female JP in a social
setting. After the 2012 hearing, Massiah was reprimanded, forced to
apologize to the complainants, ordered to undergo counseling in gender
sensitivity and suspended without pay for 10 days. His court costs of
$123,000 were paid for the public. His second hearing is ongoing.
In 2013, JP Tom Foulds attempted to influence an investigation being
undertaken by Public Health inspectors of the City of Toronto. The
investigation was into a local restaurant owned and operated by a friend of
Foulds that was shut down by Public Health Inspectors. Foulds allegedly went
to the restaurant when the officials were there and told the inspectors it
should never have been closed, according to the reasons for decision. He
asked the inspectors to remove the ‘closed’ sign in the window because he
had friends attending an LCBO event at the restaurant the following night.
The complaint against Foulds was filed by the city’s director of healthy
environments and alleged that he appeared to use his position to remove the
closed sign. Foulds was suspended without pay for a week. The public paid
$3,000 worth of his court costs.