Lawyer: 'Lack of sensitivity' no reason to block 'knees together' judge from returning to law

The lawyer for a former judge who asked why a rape complainant didn't resist by keeping her knees together is arguing that a "lack of sensitivity" at the time is no reason to prevent Robin Camp from rejoining the legal profession.

Alain Hepner has filed his final written submission to the Law Society of Alberta on behalf of Camp, who stepped down from Federal Court in March following a Canadian Judicial Council recommendation that he be removed from the bench.

The council called Camp's behaviour during a 2014 sexual assault trial "profoundly destructive" and said it undermined public confidence in the judiciary.

Camp — a provincial court judge in Calgary at the time — called the complainant "the accused" numerous times and asked her why she didn't resist the alleged assault by keeping her "knees together."

He found the accused not guilty. The Appeal Court ordered a new trial in which the man was again acquitted.

Now 65, Camp told a law society hearing in November that he has another "five or 10 good years" and planned to steer clear of criminal law.

"The sole issue before this panel is whether Mr. Camp should be reinstated as a member of the Law Society of Alberta, with an emphasis on the public confidence in regulating our own profession," Hepner wrote in his submission which was obtained by The Canadian Press.

"His transgressions related to a lack of sensitivity and knowledge in the area of sexual assault did not evidence a lack of good character or dishonesty or other objectionable conduct."

The law society is still mulling over Camp's application.

Hepner says Camp accepted responsibility for his actions from the day the controversy surfaced. He said Camp apologized immediately to his colleagues and has worked diligently since then to better himself.

"Mr. Camp came to understand and accept that his questions and comments during ... the trial were often insensitive and failed to show adequate regard for laws to protect the disadvantaged. He then apologized publicly," Hepner wrote.

"This panel must determine if Mr. Camp's conduct at the trial is an event so egregious as to override the uncontroverted evidence attesting to Mr. Camp's career-long body of work, and his reputation for credibility, integrity, character and competence."

Hepner also noted that Camp's misconduct was unique because he was a judge at the time and could not be repeated again since he stepped down from the bench.

Camp told the panel in November that he believes he's a better person now, having taken steps to educate himself on the history of sexual assault law in Canada and to correct previous biases.

He said he has taken on three counsellors to help guide his legal and personal development.

"I was a caricature. Many people in Canada reviled me," Camp said. "I learned I wasn't as clever as I thought I was. I learned I didn't know as much as I thought I did … I learned why the question I asked had been so hurtful."