Flaming Misogyny or Blindly Zealous Enforcement? The Bizarre Case of R v George

Manitoba Law Journal 42 (3):1-38 (2019)
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This article examines the distinction between judicial reasoning flawed by errors on questions of law, properly addressed on appeal, and errors that constitute judicial misconduct and are grounds for removal from the bench. Examples analysed are from the transcripts and reasons for decision in R v George SKQB (2015), appealed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal (2016) and the Supreme Court of Canada (2017), and from the sentencing decision rendered by the same judge more than a decade earlier in R v Edmondson SKQB (2003). Both were sexual assault cases. In George a thirty-five year old woman with five children was tried and ultimately acquitted of sexual assault and sexual interference after she was assaulted in her home by a fourteen year old male. Striking similarities between the reasoning and language in the trial decision in George and the sentencing decision in Edmondson demonstrate entrenched antipathy for sexual assault law and the fundamental principles of justice, equality, and impartiality. This is arguably judicial misconduct, persisting despite access in the interim to many years of judicial education programming, not merely legal error. The problem does not lie with the judge alone, however. A toxic mix of misogyny and blindly zealous enforcement of the law appears to have undermined the administration of justice in George from the outset at all levels. The problems are systemic. Were this not the case, it is likely that Barbara George would not have been charged.

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Lucinda Ann Vandervort Brettler
University of Saskatchewan


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