Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) justice Russell Brown has stepped down from the nation’s highest legal institution. Burns Lake’s most notable legal figure has been under legal fire of his own, for most of 2023, and it was due to these allegations that he chose to retire.
“Justice Brown was appointed to the Court on August 31, 2015. He has been absent from the Court since Feb. 1, 2023, while the Canadian Judicial Council reviewed a complaint against him. The Council announced today that the matter has been closed, given the resignation of Justice Brown,” said a statement from the SCC.
“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,” said the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada.
Brown’s legal representative had stronger language for Brown’s contributions to the nation.
“Justice Brown’s meteoric rise to the Supreme Court of Canada, his unblemished reputation as a judge, and his significant contributions to Canada’s jurisprudence in the areas of commercial, constitutional, tort, Aboriginal and criminal law, must be celebrated. We know that his contributions to law and to our legal culture will both endure and continue,” said a statement issued by lawyers Brian Gover and Alexandra Heine, Brown’s legal representatives. “Justice Russell Brown has made the extremely difficult decision to retire from the Supreme Court of Canada to allow a replacement judge to be named and so that the work of the Court will not be impacted during its busy fall term, and for possibly another year. He has made that difficult decision in an effort to serve the public interest and the best interests of the Court on which it was his privilege to serve.”
The investigation in question stemmed from allegations being considered by the Canadian Judicial Council.
“The Council announced on March 7, 2023, that it was reviewing a complaint into the alleged conduct of Justice Brown, stemming from events which took place while he attended a banquet in Arizona on Jan. 28, 2023,” said the council. “Per the Judges Act, the Canadian Judicial Council has the duty to investigate complaints made against federally appointed judges. Since Justice Brown is now no longer a judge, the Council’s jurisdiction over the complaint against him has ended under the Act. As such, proceedings before the Council that involve Justice Brown have come to an end.”
Brown issued a statement of his own, following his announced retirement, and it was provided to the Lakes District News.
It said: “Unfortunately, as a result of a complaint made against me in connection with an event in late January in Arizona, I have not participated in the (SCC’s) work for over four months. During this time, the Court has had to hear and decide important appeals without the benefit of a full panel. At this point, it is impossible to know how much longer this delay would continue to impact on the Court’s work. Given the progress so far, it is not unreasonable to think that this process may continue well into 2024.
“The process has also imposed a significant strain on my family and me. I cannot ignore this.
“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.
“I have therefore decided that the common good is best served by my retirement, so that a replacement judge can join the Court in time for its busy fall term.
“In light of publication earlier this spring of certain aspects of the complainant’s version of the events, however, I believe I should clear the record.
“To that end, I have authorized my counsel to release a statement disclosing evidence that disproves the claims made against me. It shows that the person who punched me was described later by police as ‘argumentative, hostile [and] antagonistic,’ and who ‘began swearing profanities.’ The officer concluded that this was due to intoxication. The complainant apparently complained to both the police and the Canadian Judicial Council, in the words of one of his companions, to ‘get ahead of it,’ apparently to avoid the legal repercussions of his actions.
“Because the allegations made against me are false, I had hoped this issue would be dispensed with quickly and would not significantly impact the Court’s business. Sadly, that has not been the case.
It has been an honour to deliberate on the important issues facing our country and I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity that I’ve had to serve Canada.”
The SCC stated that it was now turning to the prime minister, who’s responsibility it is to facilitate the naming of Brown’s replacement.
To read the details of Brown’s rebuttal of the allegations, as presented by Gover and Heine, see the online version of this story at the website for the Lakes District News.