Nearly a year after being castigated by the provincial magistrates’ council for overstepping his boundries by incarcerating a police officer for 45 minutes who ostensibly lacked respect, Quebec Court Judge Claude Provost was reprimanded again by his peers.
The Conseil de la Magistrature, whose mandate includes ensuring compliance with judicial ethics, reproached Judge Provost in a 33-page ruling for behaving as a prosecutor, asking questions in an aggressive tone more fitting of a cross-examination, and failing to be objective.
“He argued with the complainant. He made observations and comments that belittled the complainant. The latter could reasonably believe that the judge was biased before the proceedings were even completed. Any reasonable person who attended this trial could conclude that the judge did not act objectively,” said the five-member council in Couvrette c. Provost, 2009 CanLII 5419. The council concluded that Judge Provost breached s.5 (a judge should be, and be seen to be, impartial and objective) and s.8 (in public, the judge should act in a reserved, serene and courteous manner) of the Judicial code of ethics.
The complaint was lodged by Judes Couvrette, a Quebecer accused of criminal harassment towards his ex-wife between February 2006 and August 2006. Judge Provost presided over the trial on August 2007, and found him guilty. On February 2008, the judge sentenced Couvrette to jail for six month, less a day. Shortly after receiving his sentence, Couvrette lodged a formal complaint against Judge Provost over his conduct at his trial.
The magistrates’ council noted that Judge Provost’s conduct has not been above reproach. On April 2008, the council chastized Judge Provost, who has been sitting on the bench since April 1994, after a complaint lodged by police officer Roland Plante in a matter that is now before Quebec Superior Court. Last August, the the Quebec Court of Appeal overturned a ruling by Judge Provost and ordered a new trial after determining that the judge “played an active role” in the questioning of witnesses and made inappropriate comments that brought into question the objectivity of the judge.