Saturday, December 30, 2006

Supreme Court of Canada 2006 Year-End Review

Today's edition of The Globe and Mail provides an overview of the work of the Supreme Court of Canada for the year that just ended.

In his article entitled Dramatic drop in Supreme Court rulings fuels questions, journalist Kirk Makin writes that the number of judgments in 2006 was 59, a new low. The average over the past decade was in the range of 85 to 90 judgments per annum.

The numbers are said to have sparked a debate among court watchers over how Canada's top judges approach their work.
"Some argue that, if anything, judges today could be producing more decisions because computerized word processing has made it much easier for judges to prepare and circulate drafts, and each judge now has the aid of three law clerks — top-flight law graduates who take varying amounts of the load off a judge's shoulders".

"Other experts praise the decline, on the basis that by lopping the least important appeals from the bottom of its case list, the court is allowing itself to devote more time and thought to truly important cases".

(...)

"[Constitutional expert David Stratas] also speculated that the downward spiral could signal that the court is more actively debating, negotiating and seeking consensus wherever possible."
The article does in fact draw attention to this reality, pointing out that 43 of the 59 rulings were unanimous.
"However, others embrace the straight lines drawn by the unanimous rulings, since they tend to give lawyers and trial judges a genuine understanding of what each ruling stands for. With the notable exception of the court's 2005 Chaoulli health-care decision — where the court was so fractured that it might as well have not even rendered a decision at all — the McLachlin court has been remarkably consistent."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:05 pm

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