Judicial council reviewing complaint against Supreme Court of Canada’s Russell Brown

Judicial council reviewing complaint against Supreme Court of Canada's Russell Brown
The Canadian Judicial Council says it is reviewing a complaint into the alleged conduct of Supreme Court of Canada Justice Russell Brown. Brown looks on during his welcoming ceremony at the Supreme Court in Ottawa on October 6, 2015.

The Canadian Judicial Council is reviewing a complaint about the alleged conduct of Supreme Court of Canada Justice Russell Brown.

In a statement Tuesday, the council said the complaint against Brown, received Jan. 29, was referred to Christopher Hinkson, chief justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and chairperson of the council’s judicial conduct committee.

Under the Judges Act, the judicial council has a mandate to investigate complaints made against federally appointed judges.

The council did not disclose the nature of the complaint concerning Brown.

The Supreme Court recently said the judge had been on a leave of absence since early February, but it did not disclose the reason.

On Tuesday, the court said it was now at liberty to say more, noting the council told Richard Wagner, the chief justice of Canada, of the complaint on Jan. 31.

The following day, after speaking with Brown, Wagner put him on leave from his duties at the Supreme Court effective immediately, while the council looks into the complaint.

Wagner notified Justice Minister David Lametti of this decision without delay, as required by the Judges Act, the Supreme Court said.

Brown, 57, served on the Court of Appeal of Alberta before being appointed to the Supreme Court in 2015 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

He holds degrees from the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto, according to his bio on the Supreme Court’s website.

Brown provided comments to Hinkson, at his request, about the complaint on Feb. 20, the council said.

It added that due to questions about Brown’s absence, Hinkson decided it was in the public interest to announce the review of the matter.

It noted that Hinkson, as chairperson, has the responsibility of determining when and what information must be disclosed regarding conduct matters. “In doing so, he must weigh and balance various principles, notably transparency and public interest, as well as judicial independence and privacy.”

The Supreme Court said in its statement that arrangements for the court to “continue its work seamlessly have been made, including ensuring appeals are heard, reserved judgments are rendered, and applications for leave to appeal are decided.”

Although the court has nine members, it can sit with as few as five.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2023.

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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