Sunday, November 25, 2012

Do you really want this man as a Judge?

Good Day Readers:

You've undoubtedly heard the rumours Vic Toews will replace Martin Freedman who stepped down from the Manitoba Court of Appeal earlier this year having reached the mandatory retirement age of 75. As you can see he returned to BigLaw.on September 12th of this year.
Aikins Welcomes the Honourable Martin H. Freedman, A Returning Partner

Aikins is very pleased to announce that the Hounourble Martin H. Freedman, Q.C., C.Arb., has rejoined the firm as Counsel, following his retirement as a Judge of the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Prior to his appointment to the Court in July 2,000, Mr. Freedman carried on an extensive arbitration practice in Manitoba and other provinces, resolving labour relations and other disputes in both the public and private sectors. He will resume his arbitration practice and will also be Counsel to the Firm litigation, administrative law, corporate law and business law matters.

Mr. Freedman can be reached at or (204) 957-4600.
You may recall he testified at the Douglas Inquiry. As Head of the Judicial Selection Committee it recommended to The Office of the Commissioner of Judicial Affairs Canada that Lori Douglas be appointed a Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench Justice. The OCJAC subsequently passed the JAC's recommendation on to then Liberal Federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler. The Committee did not give Ms Douglas a "Highly Recommended" rating because it was aware of the now notorious pictures. She only received a "Recommended."

It has become abundantly clear, at least in this care, the selection process was severely flawed.

Clare L. Pieuk
Drew Hasselback
Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rob Nicholson says, "I've never gotten into the business of eliminating any individuals or groups of individuals. (Tyler Anderson/National Post files)

Rob Nicholson is sticking to his guns on judicial appointments.

Mr. Nicholson, the minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, spoke Monday in Vancouver at the Canadian Bar Association’s annual conference. Much of his speech dealt with the Conservative government’s get-tough-on-crime agenda. After the speech, the minister took questions from lawyers.

One of the more interesting questions came from Barry Gorlick of Monk Goodwin LLP in Winnipeg, a civil litigator and former CBA president.

He mentioned some media reports that have suggested federal cabinet minister Vic Toews might be in the running for an appointment to the Manitoba Court of Appeal. After noting that judges are supposed to be independent of politics, Mr. Gorlick asked this question: “Why did this government not immediately discount those stories on the basis that it would be inappropriate to appoint a minister directly to the bench?”
Mr. Nicholson said he considered that a hypothetical question, and I suppose he could have left it at that.

But he decided to go a bit further, and explain that he refuses to make any blanket statement that might preclude any group — and that would include sitting politicians — from judicial contention. The bench is open to all qualified applicants, regardless of their current gigs, he said.

“On a hypothetical basis, I’ve never gotten into the business of eliminating any individuals or groups of individuals,” the minister said. “If you’re qualified to sit on the bench of this country, and if you want to contribute to this great country and our judicial system, I say to those individuals, make the application and we’ll go from there.”

After the speeches, I asked Mr. Nicholson about another proposed limitation on appointment: Should bilingualism be a requirement for Supreme Court judges?

This, I’m sure you know, continues to be a hot topic. Some opposition MPs think the top judges should be bilingual, and one of the two most recent appointees to the Supreme Court is a unilingual anglophone.

 Obviously, the current federal government wouldn’t have done that if it was on side with a bilingual-only policy. And this was made clear from Mr. Nicholson’s response: “We’ve indicated that the appointments should be on the basis of their judicial merits and their legal expertise.”

Speaking of judges, Beverley McLachlin, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, made her traditional appearance at the annual conference on Saturday morning.

The judge addressed access-to-justice issues, a common theme for her public speeches. A while back, she bluntly criticized lawyers for charging clients too much for routine cases.

She didn’t go that far with her Vancouver speech. Instead, she spoke a little bit about what the court and the profession are trying to do about it. The current plan involves something called the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

The committee is chaired by Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell of the Supreme Court of Canada. Committee members come from government, the bar, the judiciary and academia. The committee itself is split into several working groups that are developing ideas to streamline parts of the legal system.

Chief Justice McLachlin seems to have faith that the committee will bring forward some practical ideas. “I expect that you will hear much more about the Action Committee’s work over the next year or so as reports become finalized and the focus turns to the next phase — taking up, championing and implementing specific projects that will produce concrete results in terms of increased access.”

Skepticism is tempting, but it is worth noting that some things have been done to improve access to the courts. Changing any adversarial system isn’t always easy because of the pushing and the shoving that are in inherent part of the adversarial process. But sometimes change gets through. Ontario’s new rules on summary judgment are an example.

The chief justice saluted one concrete project that she thinks is paying dividends. The CBA, in partnership with Pro Bono Law Ontario, has set up a project where volunteer lawyers — all former Supreme Court clerks — are providing free legal services to low-income and self-represented litigants who are seeking to appeal matters to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This is an excellent project and I commend the CBA for its involvement,” the chief justice said, adding that while it’s currently confined to Ontario, she hopes the project will expand to all provinces and territories.

Seeking leave to appeal a case to the Supreme Court of Canada is a daunting task. Some 550 applications for leave to appeal were filed to the Supreme Court of Canada last year. The court agreed to hear only about 11% of those.


Thank you to Kari Simpson of RoadKill Radio News for sending CyberSmokeBlog the link to this story.


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