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Judge Diane Pettit Baig
formerly of Fort Frances, Ontario

Settlement reached in libel case

A libel case brought by Thunder Bay Judge Dianne Pettit Baig based on several media articles in February, 2000, has been settled.

The defendants, who included seven Fort Frances lawyers, two members of the Fort Frances court staff, a Fort Frances locksmith and three news outlets including The Globe and Mail, contributed to a settlement of $568,000, which includes the legal costs incurred over the five-year case.


Thunder Bay Judge's libel case settled for $568,500 (Media Release)

TORONTO, Jan. 18 /CNW/ - A libel case brought by the Honourable Justice Dianne Pettit Baig, stemming from a February 8, 2000 article in the Globe and Mail and other media, has been settled.

The defendants, who include The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press, The Fort Frances Times, seven Fort Frances lawyers (Clare Brunetta, Ian McLennan, Wesley Derksen, Ken Koprowski, Lawrence Phillips, Emery Ruff and Donald Taylor), two members of the Fort Frances court staff (Margaret Katona and Donna Anderson) and a Fort Frances locksmith (Ken Rogoza) have all contributed to the settlement totalling $568,500.

The amount is paid to Justice Baig for damages, including legal costs. The Globe and Mail paid $200,000 of the settlement amount. All of the defendants have made written apologies to Justice Baig who is a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice in the Thunder Bay and Rainy River Districts. For further information: contact her lawyer: Robert Rueter at Rueter Scargall Bennett LLP, (416) 869-3363.


Judge's libel case settled

A Toronto law firm representing Thunder Bay Justice Dianne Pettit Baig has been successful in negotiating a settlement to a libel case stemming from a Feb. 8, 2000 story in the Toronto Globe and Mail and other media.

Baig's lawyer, Robert Rueter of Rueter, Scargall, Bennett, said in a news release Monday Baig will receive $568,500 for damages. The settlement includes legal costs.

Defendants other than the Globe and Mail include The Canadian Press, The Fort Frances Times and seven Fort Frances lawyers (Clare Brunetta, Ian McLennan, Wesley Derksen, Ken Koprowski, Lawrence Phillips, Emery Ruff and Donald Taylor).

Other defendants contributing to the settlement were Margaret Katona and Donna Anderson, two members of the Fort Frances court staff, and Fort Frances locksmith Ken Rogoza.

The Globe and Mail paid $200,000 of the settlement amount, the news release said.

Rueter said all of the defendants have made written apologies to Justice Baig, who is a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice in the Thunder Bay and Rainy River Districts.

"The libel was for the false accusations that the judge had smoked marijuana in her chamber," Rueter said in an interview from his Toronto office.

"The statement was false. An investigation by the Ontario Judicial Council concluded there was no evidence to support the content," he said.

"This was a substantial award that reflects the gravity of the matter.

"It's a vindication of Justice Baig's good name and reputation."

Judge awarded $568,500 libel settlement

The National Post's James Cowan reports:

"An Ontario judge will receive $568,500 in a libel settlement announced yesterday stemming from allegations she smoked marijuana in her chambers.

Justice Dianne Pettit Baig also received written apologies from the 13 defendants involved in the case, including The Globe and Mail, The Canadian Press and The Fort Frances Times.

"It is a substantial amount, which constitutes a substantial and meaningful vindication of Justice Baig's good character and reputation," the judge's lawyer, Robert Rueter, said yesterday.

Mr. Rueter said his client has always maintained she only smoked a cigarillo. "She was known to smoke them by anyone that knew her," Mr. Rueter said."


Press, lawyers served with libel notice

The Canadian Press, as well as several local lawyers and other media, were served a libel notice Monday by Judge Dianne Pettit Baig over a story on allegations she had been smoking marijuana in her private chambers back in November.

Judge Baig instead said she had been sneaking a few puffs on a cigar.

"We have received a complaint and we're looking into it," CP lawyer Doug Robertson, of O'Donnell, Robertson and Sansilippo, said yesterday.

Although he couldn't specifically name others who had been served orders, he did say there definitely were others.

"There are local barristers that are involved, as well as other members of the media," Robertson confirmed.

Three local lawyers were contacted for comment. Clare Brunetta declined comment while the receptionist for Lawrence G. Phillips said her employer would likely remark "no comment."

The receptionist for Wes Derksen hung up on the Times reporter.

A libel notice is an order exacted when one believes themselves to have been slandered.

"The purpose of it is for us to go back, check the story, and make a retraction or apologize if it's appropriate," noted Robertson.

The order has been referred to the CP council, which will look into it.

"The [CP] council reviews it as a complaint at this stage. It's at a very preliminary stage," said Robertson.


In response

Dear sir:

This letter is in response to the article which appeared in the Feb. 8 edition of the Daily Bulletin regarding Justice Dianne Pettit Baig.

As president of OPSEU Local 735, and on the urging of certain members of my local, I feel it is my obligation to reply to the allegations made by Her Honour against the employees of the Fort Frances Courthouse.

The local Law Society, and not the employees of the courthouse, originally reported the incidence reported on in your paper.

Even though the employees were made aware by the locksmith that he smelled marijuana in the Judges Chambers, it is not the responsibility of these employees to cause an investigation to be made.

It also is felt by the court staff that any "cloud of doubt" that is hanging over Justice Baig's career has been put there by her own actions, and certainly not by the inaction of any staff member.

I wish to thank you for allowing the staff an opportunity to respond to the article.

Yours truly,

Donna Anderson, President

OPSEU Local #735