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NDP Files Complaint Against Judge

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Attorney general to review
Ontario To Look Into How Custody Cases Are Handled
NDP Files Complaint Against Judge in Katelynn Case
Will Katelynn's Death Be a Turning Point?

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Peter Kormos says if Attorney General Chris Bentley doesn’t ask the Ontario Judicial Council to investigate action of a judge who gave custody of a 7-year-old girl to a woman accused in her death, he will.

Ontario. Judge Justice Debra Paulseth's 'FAILED' Slain Girl

Ontario. Judge 'failed' slain girl: MPP
Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Ontario judge who awarded custody of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson to a woman now charged with her death should be investigated for misconduct, says an Ontario New Democratic party MPP. Peter Kormos says he has filed a complaint with the Ontario Judicial Council asking it to look into the actions of Justice Debra Paulseth's conduct.

Kormos Wants Probe in Katelynn Sampson Case
Kormos Wants Probe in Katelynn Sampson Case
By Robert Todd | Publication Date: Monday, 18 August 2008
A New Democrat MPP says he will ask the Ontario Judicial Council to investigate the actions of the judge who granted custody of a 7-year-old Toronto girl to a woman accused in her death if Attorney General Chris Bentley refuses.
Peter Kormos says if Attorney General Chris Bentley doesn’t ask the Ontario Judicial Council to investigate action of a judge who gave custody of a 7-year-old girl to a woman accused in her death, he will.
“I was loath to do that. I wanted this to be dealt with in the most professional way, which is why I referred the matter to the AG,” says Peter Kormos, the NDP’s house leader and justice critic. “But I feel obliged to do it myself if in fact the AG won’t. It’s not something I do lightly, and I’m loath to second-guess judicial decisions.”

Kormos sent a letter to Bentley that suggests proceedings regarding the custody of Katelynn Sampson “reveal an alarming absence of any consideration of the best interests” of the girl.

“Justice [Debra] Paulseth appears to have dealt with the matter of this child’s custody in a cavalier and overly casual manner,” wrote Kormos, an Osgoode Hall Law School graduate and former criminal lawyer. “She did not employ any of the tools available to the court to determine the appropriateness of a proposed custodial parent.”

Sampson was found dead, with signs of trauma on her body, on Aug. 3 at 105 West Lodge Ave., according to police. The home reportedly belongs to Donna Irving and her partner.

Irving, 29, who in June was granted custody of Sampson with the approval of the child’s mother, has been charged with second-degree murder. Irving’s partner, Warren Johnson, 46, has also been charged with second-degree murder.

Sheamus Murphy, a spokesman for the vacationing Bentley, tells Law Times the Courts of Justice Act prohibits the ministry from passing a public complaint along to the judicial council. The ministry must respond to such requests by informing individuals how to go about lodging a formal complaint on their own, he says.
The ministry complied with that requirement last week, says Murphy, by sending Kormos a letter.

Kormos, however, says the ministry has the power to refer complaints to the judicial council, although it is “extraordinary.”

Kormos tells Law Times he found the content of transcripts from three custody hearings involving Sampson “very disturbing in terms of the absence of any inquiry into the background of any of the three adult parties. No inquiry into the reasons for the natural mother wanting to surrender up her child. And certainly, no utilization of the powers under the Children’s Law Reform Act, which permit the judge to order an assessment of the potential custodial parent, amongst other things.”

Kormos says, “While on the one hand, some may view matters on consent to be rather perfunctory, here, it’s the welfare of a child that’s being dealt with. And the court, in my view, has a very high standard that it should be meeting.”

The province’s judicial council should review the matter, says Kormos, to decide if Paulseth met that “high standard.”

“Because if the judge is deemed to have met that standard, then we’d better start amending the law,” he says.
Kormos acknowledged that family courts are “stressed” and facing “huge dockets,” and that judges and staff are “working very hard.” But he says a judicial council review will provide a platform to describe what the standard is for such matters, which will benefit everyone involved.

Asked for the ministry’s take on Paulseth’s actions surrounding the matter, Murphy responds that the ministry “respects the independence of our judiciary,” and is trying to learn as much as possible from Sampson’s tragic death in terms of improving the protection of children.

It’s best left to Bentley to respond to questions of whether changes are in order for the province’s child custody system, says Murphy.

Martha Mackinnon, executive director of the legal aid clinic Justice for Children and Youth, which represents youths aged 18 and under, says Paulseth in fact acted more thoroughly on the Sampson custody transfer than some judges traditionally have.

“There are transfers of custody where when they’re done on consent of the custodial parent and the receiving person, sometimes there are no appearances in court at all,” says Mackinnon.

“If these had all been middle-class people and nothing had gone wrong, those same parents would be yelling if the state said, ‘You need to have an assessment done,’” she says.

Mandatory criminal background checks have been aired as a needed change to the system, says Mackinnon. But she says many “pretty adequate parents” have criminal backgrounds.

“And all of that stuff would be seen as very intrusive, and unless we want to go back to the actual origins and say taking a course is mandatory in elementary and again in secondary school, and you can’t have a child without a licence, then we don’t actually have standards of what parenting looks like. So it’s very hard to say.”
Mackinnon says the law “seems to treat the child as property that can be passed around.”

“I would infinitely prefer a process in which judges have the capacity to listen to what the child says,” says Mackinnon. “I would like more involvement of all children in processes that so deeply affect them as custody.”
NDP Files Complaint Against Judge

ctvtoronto.ca

The NDP have filed a complaint against an Ontario judge who awarded custody of a child to a couple now charged with her murder.

MP Peter Kormos formally requested that the Judicial Council looks into Justice Debra Paulseth's conduct in the case of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson. He charged that Paulseth should have conducted a background check before signing off on Katelynn's guardianship.

"I suggest to you that the judge in this instance failed that child miserably but also failed in her duty as a judicial officer," he said.

He also suggested that the courts were negligent in the way they handled Katelynn's custody hearings.

Katelynn's battered body was found on Aug. 3 inside a Parkdale apartment building. Her caregiver called police saying the child had choked on food and stopped breathing. When police arrived, they noticed other wounds that helped them determine the little girl's death was a homicide.

Donna Irving, the girl's legal guardian, was arrested and charged in the case. Her boyfriend Warren Johnson was also charged. None of the charges against the couple have been proven in court.

Irving was a friend of Katelynn's mother Bernice for years. Court transcripts show that few questions were asked about the woman who has a criminal record for drugs, prostitution and violence.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he doesn't know how that could have happened, saying he doesn't "have neat and tidy answers."

He said it would be common sense not to hand over a child without doing a background or criminal check. He said the system might have to change.

"We want to see how frequently this occurs and what steps might be taken," McGuinty told reporters Monday. "Do all judges approach it in the same way? Obviously what has to prevail here is the safety of the child."

Kormos said there should never be a case where a background check isn't completed.

"This could have been child trafficking. Even more sordidly this could have been trading off children to pedophiles," he said. "As it was, the child was brutally murdered."

Ont. MPP Files Complaint Against Judge in Katelynn Sampson Case
Judge 'failed' 7-year-old Katelynn prior to her death by giving Donna Irving custody
Lee Greenberg , Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, August 18, 2008

TORONTO - The Ontario judge who awarded custody of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson to a woman now charged with her death should be investigated for misconduct, says an Ontario New Democratic Party MPP.

Peter Kormos says he has filed a complaint with the Ontario Judicial Council asking it to look into the actions of Madam Justice Debra Paulseth's conduct.

Kormos on Monday released documents showing how he believes Paulseth "failed miserably" in her responsibility to protect the girl's interests.
Undated photo Katelynn Sampson, whose body was found by police Aug. 2 in caregiver Donna Irving's apartment.
Undated photo Katelynn Sampson, whose body was found by police Aug. 2 in caregiver Donna Irving's apartment.
Brett Gundlock/National Post

The documents include forms showing the judge failed to appoint a children's lawyer or to order an assessment, even when those options plainly were available to her. She also ignored law compelling her to take the child's best interest into account.

A short courtroom interrogation of Katelynn's drug-addicted mother, Bernice Sampson, and the caregiver she awarded custody to, "best friend" Donna Irving, is utterly insufficient, says Kormos. He released a transcript of that dialogue, which is riddled with half-answered questions and unexplored avenues, including the child's potential living conditions and Irving's criminal history.

"A casual encounter with a stranger would have resulted in more inquiries about her well-being," he said Monday. "The judge failed in her duty as a judicial officer."

Katelynn was found dead in a Toronto apartment building in early August. One officer described her injuries as the worst he had seen in 20 years on the job. Irving and her live-in boyfriend, 46-year-old Warren Johnson, are charged with second-degree murder.

Ontario's Attorney General has said he is reviewing the province's laws in the wake of the girl's death.

But Kormos, who formerly worked as a criminal defence attorney, is convinced it wasn't a problem of inadequate laws, but rather Paulseth's actions, which failed to protect Katelynn from harm.

"This child was put at risk by a judge who failed to perform her duty," he said Monday. "I leave it to the judicial council to determine whether or not that constitutes misconduct or neglect of duty."


Ottawa Citizen 2008

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