Proceedings against a Northwest Territories judge accused of misconduct are being further delayed to allow the judge’s new legal team time to take on the case.
Lawyers Brock Martland and John Gordon, based in British Columbia, asked for an adjournment of “a few months” to ensure they can effectively represent Judge Donovan Molloy.
Molloy, who faces allegations of misconduct spanning a period between August 2019 and May 2021, dismissed former counsel Robert Bradbury earlier this year.
A hearing in front of a five-person panel of the Judicial Council of Territorial Court Judges was originally scheduled for November last year but has been pushed back multiple times.
On Thursday, Justice Karan Shaner – chair of the judicial council – said the planned hearing dates of May 15-19 would be scrapped. The hearing will now go ahead on July 24-28 instead.
“There will be no more adjournments,” Shaner stated. “This will go ahead.”
The original complaint against Molloy alleges personal attacks took place in court that “at times left Crown lawyers in tears and physical distress.” Molloy has said the allegations are unfounded and unproven, and further asserts that a “hostile work environment” in judges’ chambers meant his mental health degradation was not taken seriously.
For most of the past year, there have been questions over Molloy’s mental and physical wellbeing. Molloy has consistently argued that his poor mental health prevents him from instructing lawyers or participating meaningfully in proceedings against him.
Shaner, by contrast, has said that the case cannot be adjourned indefinitely as both the complainant – a former Crown attorney – and the public have a right to an outcome “within a reasonable time.”
But at a Thursday special sitting, Molloy’s new lawyers told the judicial council’s five-person panel an adjournment was the only way to ensure the judge is treated fairly.
“Judge Molloy needs counsel and counsel need time,” Martland said. “It’s not much more sophisticated than that.”
Martland added that Molloy’s health remains an issue, supplying a series of medical reports while seeking a ban on their publication.
“He is simply incapable of proceeding and acting on his own behalf,” said Martland of his client, attempting to set out why he and Gordon should be given more time to acquaint themselves with the brief.
Shaner and the panel ultimately concluded “very reluctantly” that one last delay would be granted, but no more.
Martland, meanwhile, suggested that Molloy’s new legal team may try to find an option other than proceeding with the full hearing in July.
“We do intend to fully explore the possibility of any solution that would obviate the need to proceed,” he told the panel. What that solution might be was not clear.
Molloy used to be a senior justice official in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since becoming an NWT judge in 2019, he has been at odds with a territorial system he says has “an unacceptably high risk of wrongful convictions and other miscarriages of justice.”
Molloy has previously said he sought a lawyer specializing in employment law in 2021 to address his claims of workplace harassment but, before any work could be done, he “suffered a complete mental breakdown.”
He said there had been “bad feelings” between him and his colleagues and his judicial independence was being challenged by superiors.
After a heart attack in 2022, Molloy said he planned to “rest and recover fully” before working to clear his name. He has not sat as a judge since.