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SCOC Justice Russell Brown denies Arizona allegations


Supreme Court Justice Russell Brown spoke Friday, which is rare for a member of Canada’s highest court, about an alleged dispute in Arizona that prompted a complaint to the Judicial Council of Canada.

In a statement issued by his attorneys, Brown denied details in a newspaper story published Thursday that he “disturbed” a group of friends at a Jan. 28 meeting at a Scottsdale lounge.

The Vancouver Sun cited a police report in which protester John Crump accused Brown of being drunk and “creeping out of the group” before punching Justice in the face.

The newspaper also reported that Crump accused the judge of pushing him before he punched Brown, and that the police report said “no foul play was found.”

Brown described Crump’s version as “demonstrably false”, saying he was invited to join the group before his statement was described as an unprovoked attack.

“Outside the lounge, Mr Crump objected to me rejoining the group and suddenly, without warning or provocation, punched me in the head several times. Surprised, I couldn’t defend myself,” Brown said.

“Approximately an hour after the attack, he called the police and, in an apparent attempt to avoid the consequences of the attack on me, falsely described me as a provocateur.”

Neither Crump nor other members of the group named in the media report responded to requests for comment Friday. The local police public records office was also not immediately available.

Brown, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2015 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, attended an awards ceremony and banquet at the resort before the meeting.

The Vancouver Sun reports that the event will honor former Supreme Court Justice and human rights advocate Louise Arbour, who was receiving an award from Arizona State University.

Brown has been on leave from the court since Feb. 1, pending the outcome of the board’s ongoing investigation.

“This incident caused me shame and created complications for the court,” he said in his statement. “I hope that the council will quickly resolve this issue.”

The council’s review “is timely,” spokeswoman Johanna Laporte said. A spokeswoman for BC Supreme Court Justice Christopher Hinkson, who chairs the council’s conduct committee, also declined to comment.

Details of the row have emerged as parliament debates new legislation designed to change the process by which the council deals with allegations against judges.

If passed, Bill C-9 would create a new process for reviewing allegations of misconduct that are not serious enough to warrant a judge’s removal.

The bill, currently before the Senate, would also clarify the circumstances under which a judge can be removed and change the way the council makes its recommendations to the federal justice minister.

The Judicial Council of Canada has jurisdiction over federally appointed judges and receives, reviews and hears appeals. It works at arm’s length from the executive and legislative branches of government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 10, 2023.

Filed under Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

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