TORONTO — A member of Canada’s highest court confirmed on Friday that he had been placed on leave while a judicial body investigates his role in a violent altercation at an Arizona resort.
Justice Russell Brown, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015, was temporarily relieved of his duties in February, the court said. A complaint into his conduct is under review at the Canadian Judicial Council, a 44-member organization that oversees disciplinary matters for federally appointed judges, the council said in a statement.
The nature of the complaint came to light on Friday via a report in The Vancouver Sun newspaper, but the complaint itself has not been released to the public. The council did not announce Justice Brown’s leave of absence until Tuesday, over five weeks after the investigation had begun.
The Sun identified the complainant as Jonathan Crump, a mortgage adviser and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, who told the paper that Justice Brown had been drunk at the Arizona resort and had “harrassed” his friends.
Mr. Crump did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.
The Paradise Valley Police Department received a call to the Omni Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Montelucia, a luxury resort, just after 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 29, according to a case report obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Crump complained to an officer that Justice Brown had been following him and a few friends back to their hotel room. One woman told the officer she felt “uncomfortable,” as did her mother, with what they perceived as advances toward them made by Justice Brown, the report said.
The officer also noted that Mr. Crump said he punched Justice Brown “a few times,” and that the complainant appeared to have been “under the influence of alcohol.” No charges were brought.
Justice Brown released a statement on Friday calling Mr. Crump’s account to The Sun “demonstrably false.”
In a statement, sent through his lawyers, Justice Brown explained that he felt “compelled to respond” despite previously electing not to comment on the matter while the investigation is underway.
Justice Brown said he had been attending an awards banquet and was invited by people at another table in the resort’s lounge to join them. When Mr. Crump arrived at the table, the two men did not speak, but as everyone left, Mr. Crump “objected to me rejoining the group and suddenly, without warning or provocation, punched me several times in the head,” Justice Brown said in his statement. “Taken by surprise, I was unable to defend myself.”
Mr. Crump called the police about an hour after the altercation, Justice Brown said, and “falsely described me as the instigator.”
A legal trade publication discovered Justice Brown’s absence from the court when it noticed that his name was missing from a recent decision of the nine-judge bench. The judicial council told other news organizations that it withheld the news of Justice Brown’s absence “to respect confidentiality.”
On Tuesday, the group said in a statement that disclosing the fact of his conduct review was in the public interest.
The rare absence of a Supreme Court judge, if it lasts for longer than six months, must be approved by Cabinet. As few as five judges can still make up a quorum, but the absence of Justice Brown, known to bring a libertarian and conservative perspective to the bench, could affect upcoming rulings.
Justice Brown previously served as a judge in Alberta courts and was a faculty member at the University of Alberta’s law school.