Interim story on Roy McMurtry leads to Canadian Judicial Council complaint
The shocking news that Ontario Appeal Court Chief Justice Roy McMurtry may have had a major conflict of interest when hearing a landmark homosexual marriage case in 2003 has stunned the legal community across Ontario.
The province’s top judge, who personally took on the politically charged case and hand-picked two other judges to join him in hearing the appeal, failed to reveal the homosexual lifestyle and “union” of one of his daughters to the court.
The daughter, Erin McMurtry, a would-be actress, has appeared frequently in low-budget pornographic films and stage plays focused mainly on homosexual themes. She often plays the character of a lesbian partner, mirroring her personal life according to her brother Jim, who recently told a British Columbia newspaper she lives in “homosexual union.”
While lawyers and fellow judges are privately appalled that Roy McMurtry failed to recuse himself from hearing the case, few will speak out publicly, knowing that cases they are handling could eventually come before his court.
As such, only courageous advocates such as former federal Justice Department lawyer and REAL Women of Canada vice-president Gwen Landolt are willing to risk the wrath of Ontario’s top judge.
Landolt tells The Interim she sat through all the hearings in the Ontario Appeal Court during the Bourassa case on homosexual “marriage” and McMurtry definitely never revealed his daughter Erin’s lifestyle, despite its clear relevance to his adjudication of the issue.
In fact, the Canadian Judicial Council, which governs the ethical conduct of judges, clearly states that, “Judges should disqualify themselves in any case in which they believe that a reasonable, fair-minded and informed person would have a reasoned suspicion of conflict of interest between a judge’s personal interest (or that of a judge’s immediate family or close friends or associates) and a judge’s duty.”
When Landolt read The Interim’s exclusive story in the March issue on the McMurtry conflict, she immediately set to work to file a complaint with the CJC. “A judge has an obligation to announce a potential conflict of interest. It is profoundly disturbing that he did not. His actions undermine the whole administration of justice,” she says.
Landolt’s complaint to the CJC notes several substantive instances of an apprehension of bias on McMurtry’s part, in addition to his failure to remove himself from hearing the Bourassa case due to his apparent family conflict.
She notes McMurtry was photographed at a celebratory party, arm-in-arm with the actual homosexual litigants, Kevin Bourassa and Joe Varnell, just weeks after his infamous decision.
Also, she says the written decision McMurtry wrote ordering the city of Toronto to marry a couple of homosexuals, was itself extremely thin on legal substance. “His judgement was lightweight and trite and showed no depth or insight. It was simply a knee-jerk political decision,” Landolt says.
And, she says McMurtry’s decision to award sizeable costs to the homosexual lawyers for the various litigants is “interesting,” to say the least. Douglas Elliot was awarded $409,162 and Martha McCarthy was awarded $645,000.
She says by demonstrating such bias in hearing the case, and in rendering his extraordinary decision to overturn the legal definition of marriage, “McMurtry has shown contempt for parliamentary democracy and judicial convention. When I studied law, the Ontario Court of Appeal was an outstanding court of integrity and legal jurisprudence. It is now a political body.”
Regardless how the Canadian Judicial Council decides to act, only Parliament can actually remove a judge for cause. Parliament has threatened to impeach a judge on only four previous occasions in Canadian history. In each instance, the judge resigned from the bench before the House of Commons could bring the matter to a vote.