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Former Alberta justice minister loses bid to stay contempt of court decision

Jonathan Denis also appealing contempt decision, judge says that appeal hearing best place for case
Lawyer Jonathan Denis speaks to the media in Calgary on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021. The Alberta Court of Appeal is to release its decision today on a contempt of court ruling against Denis, a former justice minister. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

A former Alberta justice minister has failed to persuade a judge to set aside a court ruling that found him in contempt of court for witness intimidation.

Alberta Appeal Court Justice Ritu Khullar says in a written decision that Jonathan Denis failed to make a case for why the lower-court ruling should be stayed.

Khullar notes that Denis has already filed an appeal of the contempt decision and that an appeal hearing remains the best place to hash that out.

Denis had also asked the judge to delay penalties and costs he could face for contempt until after the appeal is heard.

Khullar denied that, too, rejecting Denis’s argument that allowing the penalties to go ahead before his appeal would cause permanent damage to his law practice.

Denis was found in contempt last month when his law firm wrote a letter threatening to sue Alberta’s former chief medical examiner for libel while she was giving testimony in her wrongful dismissal lawsuit against the province.

Dr. Anny Sauvageau is seeking lost wages and benefits after her contract was not renewed in 2014.

Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Doreen Sulyma ruled on April 13 that the letter threatening to sue Sauvageau made her fearful of testifying plainly and honestly, and prompted another witness to beg off testifying altogether.

Denis is not a defendant in the lawsuit but was justice minister at the time of the allegations.

Sauvageau alleges she was forced out of the job as punishment after raising concerns over what she saw as political interference in cases and over billing on body pickups.

RELATED: Ex-Alberta justice minister found in contempt of court for defamation-threat letter