Monday, February 20, 2006

TV Hearings Next Week For Supreme Court of Canada Nominee

This is a follow-up to the February 9, 2006 post entitled Debate Over Judicial Appointments Livens Up Again.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that the official nominee for the open spot on the Supreme Court of Canada will be interviewed on live national television next Monday by an Ad Hoc Committee to Review a Nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada.

The nominee's identity will be made known Thursday.

The vacancy on the 9-member Court was created by the retirement of Justice John Major at the end of last year.

The Committee will be set up this week and will be composed of 12 parliamentarians "subject to rules of procedure agreed to by all parties having recognized status in the House of Commons", according to the statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The Committee will not be able to veto the nominee since the Constitution gives the prime minister the ultimate power to appoint judges to the Canada's highest court.

An initial list of six candidates was handed to an advisory panel made up of MPs from all parties in the fall of 2005 when the Liberals were still the government. The panel included Vic Toews, who is the justice minister in the new Conservative government - as well as retired judges, lawyers, academics and lay people.

That panel came up with a short list of three names just before the federal election was called in November. Harper announced he will pick the nominee from that trio.

Harper is quoted in the Globe and Mail article Committee to judge next Supreme Court appointee: "the new process is intended to give Canadians a clearer understanding of who is sitting on the court. 'I don't think Canadians know much about any of these people,' he said. 'So the nominee will have a chance to answer questions, will give some insight into how the nominee approaches his or her responsibilities as a Supreme Court justice'."

Harper dismissed the fears expressed by many that public hearings would politicize the selection process and turn the affair into an embarrassing American-style political circus. He also was quoted on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as saying he did not expect a candidate to refuse to answer any questions: " 'I don't expect that,' said Harper, who said he expects the MPs' questions to be respectful and non-partisan. 'We will certainly make it clear that the nominee must be prepared to submit to the entire process. Sitting on the Supreme Court of Canada is a sufficient capstone to one's career that one should be prepared to answer [some] questions'."

Many are unhappy with the idea of interrogating the candidate in front of a parliamentary committee (and on TV).

The Canadian Bar Association put out a press release CBA Opposes Public Questioning of Supreme Court of Canada Justice stating: "Public hearings would not shed light on whether judges will be non-partisan and uphold the rule of law. To the contrary, it leaves the impression that judges are controlled by political backers. It undermines public confidence in judicial independence. The CBA has called for an open and transparent system, so Canadians understand how judges are appointed to the highest court in our land. This is best accomplished through the advisory committee process now in place, a process that balances the principles of judicial independence, openness and merit."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:02 pm

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