Friday, April 26, 2013

"Pratte the Cat" the next Supreme Court of Canada Justice?

Dear CyberSmokeblog:

Is it even remotely possible? I doubt it, but Kirk Makin has thrown his name into the mix:

I wonder though if that says something about Mr. Pratte's ambitions. Would his resignation from the inquiry last year make sense if he had an interest in a judicial appointment? I can't see that it would. The world these people inhabit would make for a great soap-opera.

Chris BudgellVancouver, British Columbia

Dear Mr. Budgell:As always thank you for contacting CyberSmokeBlog. CSB rather doubts he will be the next Supreme Court of Canada Justice for a couple reasons. He's not a woman and his forte is civil litigation whereas the upcoming retirement of Justice Morris Fish will create a shortage of criminal litigation expertise. You may recall last year the Globe and Mail's Kirk Makin also mentioned "The Cat" as a possible replacement when another Justice retired but in the context of a long shot. CyberSmokeBlog still believes he remains very dark horse.

However, here's where it could get interesting. IF he were appointed as you've correctly pointed out, his abrupt resignation as Independent Counsel for the Douglas Inquiry last July could cause him some baggage related explanation problems.

Counsel for Complainant Alex Chapman, Toronto-based Rocco "Mr. Good Guy" Galati, filed an application with the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the taxpayer financed Canadian Judicial Counsel's refusal to post "The Cat's" apparently lengthy resignation letter on its webpage. Guy Pratte also would not release a copy to the media. This is one of 4-5 Motions that were heard on November 30 of last year for which a ruling has yet to be handed down permanently stalling the Inquiry in neutral.
"Mr. Good Guy"
How's this for a scenario? The Federal Court some day this century rules "The Cat's" resignation letter does not have be be disclosed. He's then subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada and goes before a feeble, ineffectual bi-partisan committee of Members of Parliament and is asked "The Question." Do you think it looks good if he's able to say, "The courts said I don't have to answer that."

In the total scheme of things it will matter not because Canadian confirmation hearings are a tea party while  those in the United States by comparison are televised barbecues. Here it's, "Shut up you great unwashed masses the legal establishment knows what's best for you so just pay your taxes so we can continue to receive those out of sight salaries, benefits, pensions and perks." Besides, "The Cat" is still a dark horse at best.
In the July 2008 issue of Canadian Lawyer Magazine writer Richard Cleroux wrote an excellent background article about Guy Pratte which the Canadian Judicial Council's Selection Committee should have/ought to have read, if it already hadn't, before choosing Mr. Pratte as the Douglas Inquiry's Independent Counsel. Was it a harbinger/precursor of what was to come?

Long story short. His father Yves was hauled before a public inquiry (Montreal, 1975) as CEO of the then Crown corporation Air Canada for allegedly straying beyond it's mandate. Subsequently removed from the position, he had to go through a frustrating employment search which the younger Pratte never forgot. Eventually Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau eventually appointed the senior Pratte to the Supreme Court of Canada in a move some observers at the time viewed as throwing him a bone although quite a meaty one.

His father's inquiry experience seemed to have left a bitter taste in "The Cat's" mouth which may explain his sudden departure when he decided the Douglas Inquiry was not proceeding as he though it should.

Clare L. Pieuk

Post Script

Frequent contributor Chris Budgell ("Mr. Super Self-Rep" - has been battling in British Columbia courts as a self-rep now for over ten years. Currently, he has an application before the Federal Court of Canada for a Judicial Review of the Canadian Judicial Council's practice of summarily dismissing complaints by not having them considered by The Council per se. It is Mr. Budgell's contention this has been happening since approximately 2003 when the CJC's Executive Director/Senior Legal Counsel was given the power to do so.

It is Chris Budgell's position that the CJC's bylaws to not support such a "Gatekeeper" function. Two of his complaints (conflict of interest allegations requesting British Columbia Justices self-recuse) were recently summarily dismissed by The Council's Executive Director/Senior Legal Counsel Stormin' Norman Sabourin.
Supreme Court justice's departure puts pressure on PM
Kirk Makin
Monday, April 22, 2013
Supreme Court of Canada Morris Fish poses for a photograph on the front steps of the Supreme Court April 22, 2013 in Ottawa. Justice Fish announced that he will retire at the end of August. (Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Morris Fish has announced that he will retire from the top court this spring, putting immediate pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to restore the balance of female judges on the Supreme Court bench to four.

Only one of Mr. Harper’s five appointees to the nine-judge court has been a woman. Last fall, he again raised eyebrows by replacing Justice Marie Deschamps with Justice Richard Wagner.

No sooner had Justice Wagner taken the Quebec seat on the court than Judge Deschamps said it was imperative that the next person appointed be a woman: “Numbers do count,” she told The Globe and Mail in February. “I was sad that I was not replaced by a woman.”

Justice Fish’s departure will also deprive the court of its most defence-oriented judge just months before it is expected to begin hearing cases involving the legitimacy of several controversial aspects of Mr. Harper’s criminal-law reform package.

While Justice Fish’s vote counted as just one of nine, his vast knowledge of criminal law and his perspective on the defence side of cases was a powerful influence on debate within the court.

James Stribopoulos, associate dean of law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said that Justice Fish epitomized the best qualities of a judge. Justice Fish felt passionate concern for the plight of an individual who faces the might of the state, he said.

“He has many strengths as a jurist – a clear and pithy writing style, a razor-sharp intellect, a fidelity to logic and principle,” Professor Stribopoulos said. “Most of all, however, is his humanity. In every context, but especially in criminal law, he was always very much aware and sensitive toward the stakes for everyone involved.”

Frank Addario, a veteran Toronto defence lawyer, said that Justice Fish made his mark on the court as a staunch defender of civil liberties. “He does not flinch, no matter how much law enforcement or government insists on a wider reach,” Mr. Addario said. “His combination of practical experience, intuition and legal ability made him a very unique judge.”

Justice Fish would have reached his mandatory retirement date on November 16 – his 75th birthday.

To make the job of replacing him even more difficult, the Prime Minister must also face aboriginal and minority communities that have grown increasingly restless waiting for the court’s first non-white judge.

Those seen as leading contenders to replace Justice Fish include Madam Justice Marie-France Bich, Chief Justice Nicole Duval-Hesler and Madam Justice France Thibault, all of the Quebec Court of Appeal.

However, should Mr. Harper opt for another male – or if top female candidates decline to be considered – the list could include Quebec Court of Appeal justices Pierre Dalphond and Nicholas Kasirer; as well as two senior litigators, Guy Du Pont and Guy Pratte. (emphasis ours)

In announcing his retirement on Monday, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said: “Justice Fish has served on the court with wisdom, and made enormous contributions to the court and to Canada. He is a wonderful colleague and friend who will be greatly missed.”

Justice Fish expressed his gratitude for having been entrusted to hold judicial office for well over two decades.

“I am grateful to have enjoyed this privilege and mindful of the honour and public trust that attach to the holding of judicial office in Canada,” he said in a release.

One of the more colourful personalities to sit on the Supreme Court bench, Justice Fish was born in Montreal in 1938. He spent 11 years as a staff reporter and editorial writer for the Montreal Star before embarking on his criminal law career. He served on the Quebec Court of Appeal for 14 years and was elevated to the Supreme Court of Canada on Aug. 5, 2003.

If Mr. Harper stays with the format he used in his most recent appointments, an all-party committee will be asked to provide a short list of candidates prepared by the Department of Justice.

While all of Mr. Harper’s previous appointees were considered meritorious, they were also seen as relatively conservative when it came to activist decision-making and applying the Charter of Rights.

The third veteran Quebec judge on the court – Mr. Justice Louis LeBel – reaches his mandatory retirement date next year.

Each Quebec appointment has even more significance. In light of a developing convention that the office of the chief justice rotates between French- and English-Canadian judges, one of the three Quebec appointments stands a good chance of replacing Chief Justice McLachlin when she retires.


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