Monday, July 27, 2015

Globe and Mail Weekend Feature on Judicial Appointments in Canada

Sean Fine, the Globe and Mail's justice correspondent, published a lengthy piece in the weekend edition of the newspaper on Stephen Harper’s courts: How the judiciary has been remade.

In it, Fine provides an analysis of appointments to the Canadian federal judiciary over the past decade under the Conservatives:
"The Conservative government has now named about 600 of the 840 full-time federally appointed judges, or nearly three in every four judges on provincial superior courts, appeal courts, the Federal Court and Tax Court. " (...)
"The judges, who can serve until they are 75, may be sitting long after other governments have come along and rewritten the laws. They also are a farm team or development system for the Supreme Court. They are Mr. Harper’s enduring legacy" (...)
"The rules in the appointments system are few, and all previous governments have used the bench to reward party faithful. But Mr. Harper is the first Prime Minister to be a critic of the Charter, and early on he told Parliament that he wanted to choose judges who would support his crackdown on crime." 
"The Globe spent months exploring the secret world of appointments to understand the extent of the changes and how the government set out to identify candidates who share its view of the judiciary’s proper role. We spoke to dozens of key players – political insiders, members of judicial screening committees, academics, judges and former judges – often on a condition of anonymity, so they could talk freely."
Related Globe and Mail articles include:
  • Legal observers urge Ottawa to revamp judicial appointment process (July 26, 2015): "Merit is too often trumped by political considerations in judicial appointments, leaders in the legal community say in calling for the federal government to overhaul the process. Among the simpler proposals: Putting ordinary Canadians on the committees that screen future judges, and restoring the right of these committees to say which ones they 'highly recommend.' They are now limited to recommend or not recommend. Some legal observers say the importance of politics in appointments could be further reduced by adopting models like Ontario’s, or Britain’s, in which independent committees give short lists of candidates from which the government must choose."
  • Supreme Court unfair to Harper government, new Ontario justice says (July 26, 2015): "The newest judge on Ontario’s top court has an explanation for the Conservative government’s well-known losing streak at the Supreme Court of Canada: The court’s reasoning process is unfair, making it almost impossible for the federal government to defend its laws, such as those involving assisted suicide, prostitution and the war on drugs. Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Bradley Miller, whose appointment was announced last month, is part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s vanguard on the bench – a leading dissenter, along with fellow appeal-court Justice Grant Huscroft, from much of what Canada’s judges have said and done under the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As The Globe reported on the weekend, Mr. Harper has been on a decade-long quest to transform the lower courts by finding judges who would be less activist, and less likely to stand in the way of policies such as a crackdown on crime. Justice Miller and Justice Huscroft offer an approach that is more deferential to government than is currently the norm on Canadian courts. If over time they are able to point the court in a new direction, judges will become less likely to strike down laws in which broad moral issues are at stake; government would be given more respect as the authority to decide such issues."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:02 pm

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