Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Canadian Bar Association: Judges, the CBA will protect you!

Good Day Readers:

A special thank you to Kari Simpson Founder of Drive For Justice and RoadKill Radio News for sending along the following comment and article.

Mr. Joubert currently with Winnipeg BigLaw Aikins was Canadian Bar Association President during 2008-2009
The current President is Robert Brun, Q.C. a founding partner with Vancouver-based Harris & Brun.
Sometimes a picture can say it better than a thousand words ever could.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

Might we have a voir dire
By Guy Jobert
President, Canadian Bar Association
Ladies and gentlemen of the bench - I wonder if we could have a quiet word? If I were a journalist, I would say that this was an "off-the-record conversation. If I were to copy our American colleagues, I would use the term our newest lawyers so often mistakenly use and ask if I might "approach the bench." But as a Canadian lawyer and the President of the Canadian Bar Association, I will simply ask if we might have a voir dire.

I would like to speak with you, fairly and frankly, about the CBA and its representation of judges. As each of you knows well, the Canadian Bar Association has an unparalleled record of speaking out to defend the interests of our judiciary. We have long recongnixed that judges, by the nautre of their office, cannot publicly advocate for their interests, and it falls by necessity to the Bar to fulfill that role. The independence of our judiciary is a connerstone of our democracy and of the rule of law, and we have always been ready and willing to defend that independence against encroachment.

I need only provide a few brief examples to illustrate our record in this regard:

  • We respond quickly and forcefully whenever political figures, talk-radio hosts, or populist writers make personal attacks on judges who have rendered unpopular decisions
  • We have taken the lead in resisting calls to politicize the judicial appointment process in ways that would reduce the meticulous appointment process to televised theatre
  • We have consistently supported every recommendation of independent commissions that judges' salaries and benefits be set at fair levels and protected from government interference   
The CBA, in short, has always been there for Canada's judges - we have done our fair share and more for the judiciary. And judges have often been quick to laud the CBA for our services in this regard, which we, of course, appreciate. But judges have not always been so quick to translate their appreciation and express their support for the CBA in ways that would strengthen our collective voice, primarily by means of becoming members.

Certainly, many judges do recognize the value of the CBA's services to the judiciary, such that they gladly acquire and annually renew membership in the Association. Indeed, if you have received this e-newsletter from the CBA and you are among those who have joined the CBA and become members of the Canadian Judges Forum (CJF), I am deeply appreciative of your support, and I am continually impressed by the Forum's activities and accomplishments within the CBA community.

The uncomfortable but unavoidable fact remains, however, that judicial membership in the CBA generally is low, and has been for quite some time. Despite the fact that no organization has done more and gone to greater lengths to defend our judiciary and advance its interests, relatively few judges have returned that support by way of a completed CBA membership application form.

It is a state of affairs that leaves me puzzled, and leaves other CBA members more than puzzled, and leaves other CBA members more than puzzled. Speaking plainly, I have had some members of the Association ask me why it is that the CBA does so much for judges when judges seem disinclined to recognize and solidify that support by joining the Association. I respond that defending judges is part of our professional duty, which is as good an answer as I can give.But I have found, especially recently, that it has not been a very satisfying answer to my questioners.

Reluctance to compromise the fact or appearance of judicial independence by joining the CBA would be an understandable possibility why a judge does not become a member. But the CBA has taken steps to ensure both the appearance and reality of independence for our judicial members. No judge may be a voting member of our governing Council, and all judicial activities within the CBA take place within the context of the Canadian Judges Forum, which has established watertight independence from the CBA's policy making functions.

Indeed, the greater advantages to the justice system of judicial membership in the CBA are easy to identify. Through the CBA and the CJF, lawyers and judges are uniquely able to hold conversations about our common goal of continuously upgrading the quality of our legal system and the justice that it dispenses. CBA lawyers can inform judges of trends, developments, concerns and opportunities for the improvement of our justice system of which judges might otherwise have no means of learning. Far from compromising the line between the bar and the judiciary, the Canadian Judges Forum strengthens that line by conducting these conversations in a clearly delineated public zone of propriety and independence.

Any judge who has lingering doubts about the aptness of CBA membership need look no farther than our new vision statement, issued along with a revitalized brand and logo this past spring. Chief among our defining characteristics is that the CBA is "the champion of the rule of law, across Canada and around the world." This is not a role that any member of the judiciary could have difficulty supporting.

This concludes my voir dire, and I appreciate your consideration of these points and concerns. Nobody is more committed to protecting and promoting the interests of the judiciary than I am, and you know that the CBA has always been there for our judges. We look forward to working with all our judicial colleagues, both inside and outside the CBA - and we especially look forward to more opportunities to work with you inside our association.

Vox Judicia readers - please feel free to forward my column to your judicial colleagues who are not CBA members. And please tell them that I would be very happy to receive their comments at cbapres@cba.org.

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