No penalty for judge who repeatedly failed to give reasons for decisions

TORONTO – A court in the Ontario District Court that has repeatedly failed to state its statements has apologized and restored its ways, the Canadian Justice Council said Thursday.

In conclusion of her assessment of Justice Susanne Goodman without sanctioning her, the Council said that the problem had been satisfactorily addressed and that a "number of adjustments and corrective actions" had been implemented.

"A Supreme Court judge must have the capacity and ability to perform all the normal legal functions associated with the office," said Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia in a statement. "One of these legal tasks is to be diligent in delivering reserved judgments at a reasonable rate."

MacDonald, the chairman of the board's legal committee of conduct, conducted the investigation after the highest court in Ontario ruled against Goodman in a decision in May last year. In his statement, the Court of Appeal annulled the acquittal of a man accused of hitting a woman and of sexually abusing her.

When ordering Stanislaw Sliwka for a new lawsuit, the court of appeal, calling it a "terrible result", expressed his dismay at Goodman's repeated failure to motivate acquittal and noted that the case was not the first time that she exhibited such behavior.

"The failure of the judge to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice," Judge David Doherty wrote in court. "Neither is this the first time that the lack of this reason by the examining magistrate has forced this court to order a new lawsuit, and it must be the last time."

After having heard of Ontario Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith and Goodman, a judge of the Supreme Court of 18 years, MacDonald decided that the problems in question were addressed and that her behavior would not be repeated.

"The key to his decision to close the case was the fact that Justice Goodman experienced a medical condition that has now been resolved and that caused her problems," the council said. "Justice Goodman and her Chief Justice have set out a number of specific and comprehensive measures to ensure that she enforces all aspects of her judicial responsibilities in a timely manner."

The Board has not immediately indicated which corrective measures or adjustments have been made.

However, Goodman said "deep regret" had expressed about the effects of her actions on litigants that are shown for her and to public confidence in the legal system in general.

"She has made a commitment to ensure that the situation never repeats itself", the council said in its statement.

In case the probe was triggered, Goodman rejected all charges against Sliwka in March 2016. He was indicted in March 2014 after an ailing woman named 911 from an apartment and the police found her severely beaten.

During his nine-day trial, the woman accused Sliwka of repeatedly physically and sexually assaulting her for many months when she lived with him. He denied the attacks, called her a drunk who sometimes hurt herself when she fell and also blamed her injuries for an unknown intruder.

Goodman said orally that her acquittal was based on a reasonable doubt about his guilt and promised that detailed written reasons would flow quickly. She never delivered, even after prosecution lawyers asked each other again and again.

MacDonald said that Goodman now performs its legal duties in an "effective and timely" manner.

"Failure to comply with these obligations can have a negative impact on public confidence in the judiciary," said MacDonald.

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