Outside Reading by Tribunal Members

Tribunal members are frequently admonished not to conduct independent research related to cases they hear. They are to obtain all of their information from the hearing itself. In Harris v. Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Public Complaints Commission, 2017 CanLII 46340 (NL SCTD), the issue related to the police interactions with a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome. During the hearing, the adjudicator made statements indicating that he had done some reading on the condition. At one point, on cross-examination, the young man responded to a question by saying “Can I throw that microphone at your head?” The adjudicator declined to view the comment as a threat of violence towards counsel and appeared to ascribe it to the young man’s disability. On appeal, the officers asserted that the adjudicator had demonstrated an appearance of bias. The Court did not accept that argument. The Court indicated that bias arguments must be raised before the adjudicator and should not be raised for the first time on the appeal. Doing so respects the process, is more efficient and permits the adjudicator to put any relevant facts on the record. In addition, the Court did not find that any outside reading materially affected the conduct of the hearing or the findings of credibility. The detailed reasons of the adjudicator assisted the Court in making this determination.

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