An Ontario judge has beaten a disciplinary panel to the punch, resigning before he could be penalized for a pattern of sexual misconduct involving female staff at the Barrie, Ont., courthouse.
The 11th-hour resignation likely prevented Kerry Evans from being the first judge removed from the bench since the Ontario Judicial Council developed its current disciplinary procedure in 1995.
"I'm sure it must have been a very difficult time for the judge," Douglas C. Hunt, a lawyer for the Ontario Judicial Council, said in an interview yesterday. "It is a difficult decision to make. But I believe he did the right thing."
The panel heard a slew of sensational allegations last August involving buttock-squeezing, forcible French-kissing and even oral sex between the judge and members of the courthouse staff.
Shortly after it convened yesterday, the panel, chaired by Madame Justice Louise Charron of the Supreme Court of Canada, was told Mr. Evans had tendered his resignation to Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant on Monday.
"I believe that we are all in agreement that in light of the resignation, there is no further jurisdiction for this panel," Mr. Hunt told the panel.
A former Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer appointed to the bench in October, 1997, Mr. Evans is the son of former Ontario chief justice Gregory Evans. Mr. Evans was acquitted earlier this year of criminal charges arising from the allegations, but faces civil lawsuits filed by at least two women. He had been suspended with pay since December, 2002.
Brian Greenspan, Mr. Evans's lawyer, said yesterday his client "felt that in light of the findings, he couldn't have served effectively as a judge." Mr. Greenspan said Mr. Evans has not indicated his future plans.
Besides being ineligible for a judicial pension, Mr. Evans must reapply to the Law Society of Upper Canada if he wants to practise as a lawyer. The law society can refuse such requests if they are made by former judges who were removed or resigned because of misconduct.
Mr. Hunt said the panel would have been seeking a penalty "at the high end of the scale -- and the only provisions at the high end are a suspension without pay for a month, or removal."
The panel said Mr. Evans was legendary for being tactile, generous, gregarious -- and for invading what others felt to be personal space.
"It is unrealistic, and also unfair, to expect that the employee will confidently, without fear of recrimination, stand his or her ground against a person in authority to ensure respect of his or her private space," it said.
Incidents the council ruled were well-founded included: Mr. Evans touching a woman's crotch while gesticulating, a gesture the panel said may fall short of sexual assault but is certainly reckless and inappropriate; several "totally unacceptable" instances of butt-slapping; pinning a complainant against a wall with his chest, grabbing her buttocks and trying to force jujubes into her mouth; trying to persuade a complainant to embark on an affair, including an incident in which he put his tongue in her mouth while kissing her.
Mr. Evans's accusers, who cannot be identified, include court clerks, court reporters, probation officers and judges' secretaries.
Between 1965 and 1995, the council ruled on five occasions that allegations against a judge were sufficiently serious to hold public inquiries, OJC registrar Valerie Sharp said yesterday. In four cases, the council ruled against the judge. In the fifth case, the judge resigned before the inquiry could be held.
An Ontario judge accused by eight women of unwanted patting, groping and other acts has been found by the province's judicial disciplinary body to have engaged in sexual misconduct.
The finding was the most serious the Ontario Judicial Council has reached since its creation in 1995. A hearing panel will reconvene "as soon as possible" to decide whether Provincial Court Judge Kerry Evans should be removed from the bench or receive some lesser penalty, such as a suspension or reprimand.
Last month, the panel heard a slew of sensational allegations involving buttock-squeezing, forcible French-kissing and even oral sex between Judge Evans and members of the Barrie courthouse staff.
The hearing featured several days of graphic evidence, including a bizarre debate over whether Judge Evans had a distinguishing physical mark that at least one accuser ought to have been aware of -- a shaved genital region.
Led by Madam Justice Louise Charron of the Supreme Court of Canada, the panel frequently preferred the testimony of the complainants over that of Judge Evans. It noted on occasions that his testimony lacked "the ring of truth," was "incredible" or "seemed incongruous."
". . . It is our view that Justice Evans has demonstrated on a number of occasions a disturbing insensitivity to other persons' comfort zones," it said. "On other occasions, he has clearly crossed the line."
At one point, the panel took pains to eliminate any suggestion of a conspiracy against Judge Evans. "We have found no basis to suspect collaboration between the witnesses."
However, the panel ruled in favour of Judge Evans on a complaint that he manoeuvred a woman into having mutual oral sex in his judicial chambers -- the most serious complaint he faced. The panel expressed skepticism about inconsistencies in the complainant's evidence, her ability to recall incidents, her exaggerated responses and her apparent hostility toward Judge Evans.
It observed that the allegations involved forced, rather than consensual, sex. "We have carefully assessed the evidence about these allegations having regard to the high standard of proof that must be met," the panel said. "In our view, that onus has not been met."
Judge Evans was acquitted earlier of criminal charges arising from the allegations, but he faces civil lawsuits by at least two women. He has been suspended with pay since December, 2002.
Brian Greenspan, Judge Evans's lawyer, said yesterday that he and his client were very disappointed by the ruling. He said that no decision has been made on whether to appeal the finding to Divisional Court.
The panel noted yesterday that Judge Evans was legendary within the Barrie courthouse for being tactile, generous, gregarious -- and for chronically invading what others felt to be their personal space.
"Every witness agreed that Justice Evans had the habit of standing quite close to the person he would be speaking to, at times causing that person to back up," it said. "His personal space was described as much smaller than that of the average person.
"It is unrealistic, and also unfair, to expect that the employee will confidently, without fear of recrimination, stand his or her ground against a person in authority to ensure respect of his or her private space."
Incidents the council ruled were well-founded include:
Judge Evans touching a woman's crotch while gesticulating, a gesture the panel said may fall short of sexual assault but is certainly reckless and inappropriate;
Several "totally unacceptable" instances of butt-slapping;
Pinning a complainant against a wall with his chest, grabbing her buttocks and trying to force jujubes into her mouth;
Trying to persuade a complainant to embark on an affair, including an incident where he put his tongue in her mouth while kissing her.
A former Crown attorney and defence lawyer, Judge Evans was appointed in October, 1997. His accusers, who cannot be identified, include court clerks, court reporters, probation officers and judges' secretaries.
TORONTO -- An Ontario provincial court judge facing allegations of sexual misconduct is expected to testify in his defence today at a rare judicial disciplinary hearing.
A four member panel of the Ontario Judicial Council heard testimony last week from eight women who complained about the conduct of Justice Kerry Evans.
The 54-year-old judge was described as someone who had a reputation as a "pervert" among female court staff, who would try to feed them candies and on one occasion bragged about the size of his penis to a clerk.
Evans, who sits as a judge in Barrie, could be removed from the bench if the panel finds him guilty of sexual misconduct.
The son of former Ontario chief justice Gregory Evans was acquitted of sexual assault in May by another Ontario judge.
He has been suspended with pay since December 2002. Provincial court judges in Ontario earn $206,000 annually after they were recently awarded a 21-per cent raise.
The complainant in the criminal trial testified at the disciplinary hearing last week Evans was always "too close for comfort" and would brush her hair from her eyes.
"Among the clerks, it was well known he had the reputation as a pervert," the 35-year old former court clerk told the panel.
The incident that led to the criminal charges occurred in December 2002 when Evans and the woman were talking about Christmas shopping as they walked to the courtroom. "I felt his hand in direct contact with my crotch," the woman testified, explaining the judge touched her briefly over her court robe.
The criminal trial judge ruled the contact was accidental and Evans' lawyer Brian Greenspan took off his suit jacket and put on a clerk's robe during the hearing to suggest the woman's allegations were not credible.
"It is pretty difficult to know where the genitals are," Greenspan said as he wore the loose fitting garment in front of the disciplinary panel.