Judge ‘loath’ to toss out Dhinsa harassment lawsuit

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

A Superior Court judge who is being asked to dismiss a

$4-million lawsuit over the handling of sexual harassment complaints against

Hamilton police Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa has suggested he may instead put the action

on hold.

Justice James Turnbull told lawyers for opposing parties he

is “leaning toward” staying the suit because he doesn’t want to see the two

women plaintiffs tripped up again by the sort of deadline technicalities that

quashed disciplinary charges.

The plaintiffs – a police officer and civilian employee

identified only as only Jane Doe 11 and Jane Doe 12 – are each seeking $2

million in damages for alleged negligence in the handling of Police Services

Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa, who returned to work in late May after being

on paid leave since November 2005.

Ten other complainants dropped out of the lawsuit in August

after switching lawyers and deciding to focus on remedies through a police

association grievance and complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

The two remaining plaintiffs are also parties to those

actions, but their lawyer has argued they are unlikely to win remedies sought

in the suit, including punitive damages.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against

Sgt. Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling Police Chief Brian Mullan had

filed them eight days past a statutory deadline.

“Through inadvertence these 12 women were denied the right

to have a proper hearing with respect to Sgt. Dhinsa,” Justice Turnbull told

the court on Oct. 8, indicating he may stay the suit until after the grievance

and human rights complaint run their course.

“They’ve had justice denied,” he said. “I’d be loath to do

it a second time.”

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and their

lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, originally launched by

all 12 plaintiffs last December after unsuccessful efforts to appeal the tribunal’s

ruling in the courts.

Police lawyer Colleen Robertshaw said she is not

“unsympathetic” toward the two remaining plaintiffs, but the grievance

procedure is the legally recognized venue for dealing with the dispute.

She said the matter is beyond the court’s jurisdiction and

promised the police board will not seek to dismiss the women’s grievance on the

grounds that it was filed past deadlines set out in the association’s

collective agreement.

“There’s not going to be an argument from the board that the

arbitrator doesn’t have jurisdiction,” Ms. Robertshaw told Justice Turnbull.

“The association is representing the plaintiffs. They’re

certainly not going to take that position.”

But as he did in August, Justice Turnbull again raised

concerns about the potential conflict of interest faced by the police

association, which is representing the women on their grievance but also a

defendant against their human rights complaint.

He said “it would seem preferable” for the association to

hire a different law firm to represent the women given that the existing firm has

represented Sgt. Dhinsa and will defend the association on the human rights

complaint.

“People talk,” he said of his experience on the possibility lawyers

at a law firm might discuss conflicting cases. “People talk too much.”

Afterwards, Helen Pelton, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said

although she’d like the lawsuit to proceed now, she’d be content with a stay

because it would at least keep the action alive pending the outcome of the

other remedies.

She put little faith in the grievance, which she said has

been put on hold by the human rights complaint.

“The real problem with the grievance is not so much

timelines as the collective agreement specifically carves out matters of

discipline. It says they’re not grievances; they’re things to do under the

police act. They already did that and they were thrown out,” Ms. Pelton said.

“So we’d be in a circular loop here, going nowhere.”

Justice Turnbull offered to receive final submissions from

both lawyers on the dismissal motion, but did not indicate when he might make a

ruling.

Judge ‘loath’ to toss out Dhinsa harassment lawsuit

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

A Superior Court judge who is being asked to dismiss a

$4-million lawsuit over the handling of sexual harassment complaints against

Hamilton police Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa has suggested he may instead put the action

on hold.

Justice James Turnbull told lawyers for opposing parties he

is “leaning toward” staying the suit because he doesn’t want to see the two

women plaintiffs tripped up again by the sort of deadline technicalities that

quashed disciplinary charges.

The plaintiffs – a police officer and civilian employee

identified only as only Jane Doe 11 and Jane Doe 12 – are each seeking $2

million in damages for alleged negligence in the handling of Police Services

Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa, who returned to work in late May after being

on paid leave since November 2005.

Ten other complainants dropped out of the lawsuit in August

after switching lawyers and deciding to focus on remedies through a police

association grievance and complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

The two remaining plaintiffs are also parties to those

actions, but their lawyer has argued they are unlikely to win remedies sought

in the suit, including punitive damages.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against

Sgt. Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling Police Chief Brian Mullan had

filed them eight days past a statutory deadline.

“Through inadvertence these 12 women were denied the right

to have a proper hearing with respect to Sgt. Dhinsa,” Justice Turnbull told

the court on Oct. 8, indicating he may stay the suit until after the grievance

and human rights complaint run their course.

“They’ve had justice denied,” he said. “I’d be loath to do

it a second time.”

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and their

lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, originally launched by

all 12 plaintiffs last December after unsuccessful efforts to appeal the tribunal’s

ruling in the courts.

Police lawyer Colleen Robertshaw said she is not

“unsympathetic” toward the two remaining plaintiffs, but the grievance

procedure is the legally recognized venue for dealing with the dispute.

She said the matter is beyond the court’s jurisdiction and

promised the police board will not seek to dismiss the women’s grievance on the

grounds that it was filed past deadlines set out in the association’s

collective agreement.

“There’s not going to be an argument from the board that the

arbitrator doesn’t have jurisdiction,” Ms. Robertshaw told Justice Turnbull.

“The association is representing the plaintiffs. They’re

certainly not going to take that position.”

But as he did in August, Justice Turnbull again raised

concerns about the potential conflict of interest faced by the police

association, which is representing the women on their grievance but also a

defendant against their human rights complaint.

He said “it would seem preferable” for the association to

hire a different law firm to represent the women given that the existing firm has

represented Sgt. Dhinsa and will defend the association on the human rights

complaint.

“People talk,” he said of his experience on the possibility lawyers

at a law firm might discuss conflicting cases. “People talk too much.”

Afterwards, Helen Pelton, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said

although she’d like the lawsuit to proceed now, she’d be content with a stay

because it would at least keep the action alive pending the outcome of the

other remedies.

She put little faith in the grievance, which she said has

been put on hold by the human rights complaint.

“The real problem with the grievance is not so much

timelines as the collective agreement specifically carves out matters of

discipline. It says they’re not grievances; they’re things to do under the

police act. They already did that and they were thrown out,” Ms. Pelton said.

“So we’d be in a circular loop here, going nowhere.”

Justice Turnbull offered to receive final submissions from

both lawyers on the dismissal motion, but did not indicate when he might make a

ruling.

Judge ‘loath’ to toss out Dhinsa harassment lawsuit

News Oct 15, 2009 Ancaster News

A Superior Court judge who is being asked to dismiss a

$4-million lawsuit over the handling of sexual harassment complaints against

Hamilton police Sgt. Kevin Dhinsa has suggested he may instead put the action

on hold.

Justice James Turnbull told lawyers for opposing parties he

is “leaning toward” staying the suit because he doesn’t want to see the two

women plaintiffs tripped up again by the sort of deadline technicalities that

quashed disciplinary charges.

The plaintiffs – a police officer and civilian employee

identified only as only Jane Doe 11 and Jane Doe 12 – are each seeking $2

million in damages for alleged negligence in the handling of Police Services

Act charges against Sgt. Dhinsa, who returned to work in late May after being

on paid leave since November 2005.

Ten other complainants dropped out of the lawsuit in August

after switching lawyers and deciding to focus on remedies through a police

association grievance and complaint to Ontario’s human rights commission.

The two remaining plaintiffs are also parties to those

actions, but their lawyer has argued they are unlikely to win remedies sought

in the suit, including punitive damages.

A hearing officer quashed 24 disciplinary charges against

Sgt. Dhinsa more than two years ago after ruling Police Chief Brian Mullan had

filed them eight days past a statutory deadline.

“Through inadvertence these 12 women were denied the right

to have a proper hearing with respect to Sgt. Dhinsa,” Justice Turnbull told

the court on Oct. 8, indicating he may stay the suit until after the grievance

and human rights complaint run their course.

“They’ve had justice denied,” he said. “I’d be loath to do

it a second time.”

Chief Mullan, Hamilton police services board and their

lawyer, Marco Visentini, are defendants in the lawsuit, originally launched by

all 12 plaintiffs last December after unsuccessful efforts to appeal the tribunal’s

ruling in the courts.

Police lawyer Colleen Robertshaw said she is not

“unsympathetic” toward the two remaining plaintiffs, but the grievance

procedure is the legally recognized venue for dealing with the dispute.

She said the matter is beyond the court’s jurisdiction and

promised the police board will not seek to dismiss the women’s grievance on the

grounds that it was filed past deadlines set out in the association’s

collective agreement.

“There’s not going to be an argument from the board that the

arbitrator doesn’t have jurisdiction,” Ms. Robertshaw told Justice Turnbull.

“The association is representing the plaintiffs. They’re

certainly not going to take that position.”

But as he did in August, Justice Turnbull again raised

concerns about the potential conflict of interest faced by the police

association, which is representing the women on their grievance but also a

defendant against their human rights complaint.

He said “it would seem preferable” for the association to

hire a different law firm to represent the women given that the existing firm has

represented Sgt. Dhinsa and will defend the association on the human rights

complaint.

“People talk,” he said of his experience on the possibility lawyers

at a law firm might discuss conflicting cases. “People talk too much.”

Afterwards, Helen Pelton, lawyer for the plaintiffs, said

although she’d like the lawsuit to proceed now, she’d be content with a stay

because it would at least keep the action alive pending the outcome of the

other remedies.

She put little faith in the grievance, which she said has

been put on hold by the human rights complaint.

“The real problem with the grievance is not so much

timelines as the collective agreement specifically carves out matters of

discipline. It says they’re not grievances; they’re things to do under the

police act. They already did that and they were thrown out,” Ms. Pelton said.

“So we’d be in a circular loop here, going nowhere.”

Justice Turnbull offered to receive final submissions from

both lawyers on the dismissal motion, but did not indicate when he might make a

ruling.