Russell Brown retired from the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, ending a probe into allegations of misconduct, and the federal justice minister says the search to replace him will begin “in the coming days.”
The Canadian Judicial Council, the body tasked with disciplining judges, said it no longer has jurisdiction to continue investigating allegations of misconduct stemming from an event at an Arizona hotel in January.
Brown has vigorously denied accusations that he was intoxicated and harassed a group of friends at an event at an upscale resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.
“While my counsel and I are confident that the complaint would have ultimately been dismissed, the continuing delay is in nobody’s interests — the Court’s, the public’s, my family’s or my own,” Brown said in a statement Monday.
The justice, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2015 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper, had been on leave from the court since Feb. 1 pending the outcome of the council’s review, which was not announced until March 7.
Brown spoke at the event held by Arizona State University to honour former Supreme Court justice and human rights advocate Louise Arbour.
The responding officer recorded his arrival at the resort around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 29, according to a police report obtained by The Canadian Press.
In the report, Jon Crump accused Brown of being intoxicated and “hitting on” his female companions. Crump alleged that Brown followed the group to their hotel room. Crump said he then punched the justice “a few times” to prevent his entry.
Police reported Crump was “argumentative, hostile (and) antagonistic” and the officer interviewing him wrote he believed he was “under the influence of alcohol.”
The police were unable to interview Brown but found no crime had taken place.
In a statement put out shortly after Postmedia first reported his absence from the court, Brown described Crump’s version of events as “demonstrably false,” saying he was invited to join the group before what his statement described as an unprovoked attack.
“Outside the lounge, Mr. Crump objected to me rejoining the group and suddenly, without warning or provocation, punched me several times in the head. Taken by surprise, I was unable to defend myself,” Brown said.
In his Monday statement, Brown said he had allowed his lawyer to release evidence that “disproves the claims made against me.”
“The evidence uncovered during the investigation into the complaint demonstrated that the complainant’s allegations were fraught with glaring contradictions, inaccuracies, and embellishments,” wrote lawyers Brian Gover and Alexandra Heine in their own statement.
They said the evidence shows a “calculated plan by the complainant to concoct an account in which Justice Brown was the aggressor — to ‘get out ahead of it,’ in the words of one of the complainant’s own companions.”
That evidence, the lawyers said, included surveillance video, evidence from the hotel’s bartender, the security officer at the hotel, a 911 phone call and other material.
Neither Crump nor other members of the group have responded to earlier requests for comment from The Canadian Press.
Chief Justice Richard Wagner said the Supreme Court will continue to render decisions in Brown’s absence, but he is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promptly appoint a new justice.
“On behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, I would like to acknowledge Justice Brown’s contribution over the last eight years and wish Justice Brown all the best in his future endeavours,” he said in a statement.
Justice Minister David Lametti said he received a letter earlier Monday informing him of the resignation.
“I respect Justice Brown’s decision, and want to acknowledge his contributions to the Court,” he said in a statement.
“The process to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice will be launched in the coming days. We will have more to say in due course.”
—David Fraser, The Canadian Press