CALGARY – A former judge who resigned over his treatment of a sexual assault complainant is allowed to once again practise law in Alberta.
The Law Society of Alberta approved Robin Camp’s reinstatement this week.
A three-member committee said Camp’s integrity and competence were not at issue, but the central concern was the reputation of the profession.
Two lawyers and one member of the public said in their unanimous decision they were convinced that Camp learned from his mistakes.
“The committee is therefore of the view that reinstating Mr. Camp … would not only be compatible with the best interests of the public, but better serve those interests, taking into account the importance of rehabilitation both to our system of justice and to society’s fundamental values,” they wrote.
“The committee is also of the view that reinstating Mr. Camp would not, when viewed through the eyes of the reasonable person, harm the standing of the legal profession generally.”
Court transcripts from the 2014 sexual assault trial show that Camp — then a provincial court judge in Calgary — called the complainant “the accused” numerous times and asked her why she didn’t resist by keeping her knees together.
Camp found the accused, Alexander Wagar, not guilty. The Appeal Court ordered a new trial in which Wagar was again acquitted.
Camp was appointed to the Federal Court in 2015. He stepped down last year following a Canadian Judicial Council recommendation that he be removed from the bench.
Last fall, Camp applied to practise law again. When law society members become judges, they automatically leave the organization.
The law society held a day-long hearing in November, during which friends and former colleagues described Camp as gentlemanly, respectful, tolerant and eager to learn.
He told the hearing he still had much to contribute and wished to build a law practice in Alberta. He said he has no interest in criminal law, but hoped to go into corporate, commercial, construction, oil and gas or environmental practice.
Camp has apologized for his remarks during the Wagar trial and has undergone counselling and training with a superior court judge, a psychologist and an expert in sexual assault law.
The experts told the committee that they believed Camp understood why what he said was wrong and was motivated to do better.
“Mr. Camp is clearly a proud person, not wanting to, as he described it, ‘end in failure.’ There is nothing in his testimony or demeanour from which the committee has any basis to find that his learnings are other than as described by the experts,” the committee wrote.
“The evidence before us … is that Mr. Camp has learned from his mistakes.”
The committee also said the differing roles of judges and lawyers weighed into its decision.
It noted that no one appearing in court can choose their judge.
“Judges must be impartial and unbiased in adjudicating upon the rights of the parties before them and deciding the outcome of their case,” it said.
“In contrast, parties typically have the ability to choose their own counsel. Moreover, the lawyer’s role is to advocate his or her client’s position to the fullest extent of the law and to advance his or her best interests.”
Camp must work with the law society’s practice management department before practising again. The committee said that condition is meant to set him up for success and is not meant to reflect any concerns over his behaviour.
Former judges need the law society’s permission if they want to appear in court as counsel. Camp has not sought that approval.