(forgive my hyperbole)

Quebec Chief justice quits after impaired charge


MONTREAL — Lyse Lemieux, the first woman to be named chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court, announced today that she is retiring after being cited for impaired driving.

Blood-alcohol tests allege Lemieux was driving with a level of twice the legal limit of 0.08 when she was ticketed by Quebec provincial police earlier this month, said Alanna Woods, a Superior Court spokeswoman.

Lemieux, 68, is to appear in court on Nov. 10 to face charges of driving while impaired and having a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.

She was cited after she allegedly hit an unoccupied piece of road equipment parked on the side of a major highway on Aug. 5.

No one was injured in the incident, which happened around 10 p.m.

“All citizens are equal before the law and I am taking my responsibilities,” Lemieux, who has sat as a judge for more than 20 years, said in a statement.

Lemieux will leave her job on Sept. 30 and will perform only administrative duties until then.

“I will refrain from participating in any public event,” said Lemieux, who was appointed in August 1996.

“As well, I will not participate in discussions involving the orientation of the institution, whose integrity I so vividly wish to preserve in taking this decision.”

It will now be up to the federal cabinet to name a new chief justice.

Lemieux noted in her statement she had her driver’s licence suspended for three months in 2001 when she overtook a school bus on her way to work in the morning.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada said in a statement that she was “very sad to hear of the unfortunate circumstances that led . . . (Lemieux) to abandon her functions and retire from the bench.”

“This must have been a very difficult decision for Chief Justice Lemieux and I understand and respect the choice that she has made to leave at this juncture.

“Lyse Lemieux has served the administration of justice with skill and dignity for over two decades. Serious as it is, the incident that brings her to leave the judiciary must not overshadow her important and lengthy contribution to public life in Canada.”

Lemieux has worked in all areas of law except criminal and has presided over civil and administrative cases in Superior Court. She is also credited for her work with her predecessor Lawrence Poitras in helping to reduce delays for court hearings.

Lemieux’s colleagues were saddened by her departure but not surprised by her decision.

“She wants to preserve the integrity of the court and when she faced all this, she decided to quit her function,” said Justice Robert Pidgeon, associate chief justice of Quebec Superior Court.

Pidgeon noted that Lemieux was doing a good job building a team to preside over implementing reforms to the Quebec Civil Code and was extremely concerned with the efficiency of the courts and judges.

Justice Andre Deslongchamps, assistant chief justice of the Superior Court, described Lemieux as a dedicated and well-liked jurist.

“She was a very responsible person,” Deslongchamps said, calling her a person of vision.

“You can imagine that we have been consulted and we discussed the matter, myself, Justice Pidgeon and her, and she came to that conclusion that she has to quit.”

Noted Montreal criminal lawyer Robert La Haye said Lemieux made the best possible decision.

La Haye said Lemieux not only preserved the integrity of the judicial system but also avoided putting herself in a conflict of interest if, for example, she ever had to judge an appeal in a drunk driving case.

Let’s go, rummy, walk the line…


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