It’s OK to cry in the courtroom even if you’re a judge: law professors

Defence lawyer has asked provincial court Judge Monica McParland to recuse herself

Judges can’t be expected to be emotionless robots, two legal experts said after a defence lawyer questioned a British Columbia judge’s ability to deliver a fair sentence because she cried during a victim impact statement.

Defence lawyer Jacqueline Halliburn has asked provincial court Judge Monica McParland to recuse herself from the Kelowna courtroom because of what she argued was an “overall tone of bias” against a person who pleaded guilty in a sexual interference case. The lawyer also said McParland scoffed at the defence’s suggestion for an intermittent jail sentence.

It will be up to McParland to decide if she should quit the case and refer sentencing to another judge.

Annalise Acorn, a professor of law at the University of Alberta with no involvement to the case, said judges are routinely confronted with facts involving tremendous amounts of human suffering and as human beings can be expected to have an emotional response, just like anyone else.

The case highlights a false expectation that reason has to be independent from emotion, she said. But that is a distorted view of what takes place in the trial process, where there are all kinds of overlap and interplay between reason and emotion.

“Emotions are these kind of physical responses we have to rational evaluations,” said Acorn, whose main area of research is the philosophy of emotions in the context of conflict and justice.

“In my view, to suggest that an emotional response in itself is an indication of bias is a really wrong-headed approach.”

READ MORE: Kelowna judge weeps, defence lawyer cries foul

Jeremy Melvin Carlson was charged in 2016 with sexual assault and the sexual interference of a person under the age of 16. Carlson, who is transgender and is in the midst of a male-to-female transition, pleaded guilty to sexual interference of a minor.

Janine Benedet, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said it’s significant that the judge cried during the sentencing stage of the trial, which means the accused had already been convicted.

“As a society, we should have a revulsion to the sexual abuse of children, there’s nothing wrong with finding that distressing,” she said.

While she wasn’t aware of similar cases, Benedet said the courts recognize that judges and juries may be affected by what they see and hear in court. That’s why there’s a process to determine, for example, whether still photographs of a graphic event might be shown as evidence instead of a full video.

After the Crown and defence arguments were made on Monday, McParland indicated her decision will come before the end of August. Online court documents show the case is due to return to provincial court in Kelowna for a decision on Aug. 17.

The Crown wants a jail sentence up to 20 months, followed by two years of probation. The defence recommended a 90-day intermittent jail term, to be served over 20 weekends.

The judge’s response when Halliburn proposed that sentence is a matter of dispute. Halliburn described it in her submission to the court as a “short, sharp scoff,” but Crown prosecutor Angela Ross says no such response is audible on court recordings where it’s alleged to have occurred.

Judges routinely display a wide range of mannerisms and speaking styles in their interactions with counsel during sentencing proceedings, Ross said, and even if they were true, none of the behaviours ascribed to McParland meet the high standard of proof required for a judicial recusal.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Nuslhiixwta – A Place of Treasures – celebrates new name

After months of thought and deliberation, Healthy Beginnings now has a new name.

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Coach accused of sexual assault says apology letter was misinterpreted

Dave Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching

Give the gift of nature this holiday season

Please don’t be mad, but I bought you a moose

Aboriginal poet faces backlash for calling out NHL-themed totem poles

Rebecca Thomas says she received backlash for asking a drugstore chain to remove NHL merchandise

No plans yet for free WiFi on BC Transit buses

BC Transit says they are monitoring the roll-out of free WiFi on Translink vehicles

Some Kotex tampons recalled in Canada and U.S.

In some cases, tampon users sought medical attention “to remove tampon pieces left in the body.”

Most Read