Why Ontario’s next Chief Justice must be able to sell Justice

Four months after Chief Justice Winkler’s retirement, the chair of the Chief Justice of Ontario remains unoccupied.  Most chatter on the topic of his replacement has focused on names.  Will it be so-and-so from the Court of Appeal?  How about an appointment straight from the practising Bar?  Will it be a woman or member of a visible minority this time?

In every other walk of life, we don’t fill positions by hiring a star and hoping he or she will do well.  Rather, we draw up a job description around the purposes of the organization, and recruit the candidate who can best accomplish those purposes.

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Inside the life of a reserved summary judgment

Some welcome editorial comments this week from Justice D. M. Brown, of the Superior Court of Ontario, in

Western Larch Limited v. Di Poce Management Limited, 2012 ONSC 7014.

Starting at para. 269 of the decision, the judge candidly describes the disproportionate time required to make rulings on complex summary judgment motions. In a nutshell, he takes aim at one area of judicial allocation, judgment writing time. He says the internal scheduling protocols should be updated to reflect the time needed to deal with summary judgments, which may take up little hearing time but deal with issues as complex as many commercial trials.

In the concluding paragraph, Justice Brown writes, “

If we are to restore the health of Ontario’s ailing civil litigation system, as judges we must not only call on those who appear before us to change their litigation culture, we also must look at our own internal scheduling culture and change it to meet the realities of our times.”

In a paper delivered at a September 12, 2012, meeting at the Ontario Bar Association, Justice Brown had disagreed with comments this writer made to the Canadian Lawyer in a August, 2012, article about the need to allocate judicial resources to meet higher demand for summary judgment motions. In fairness, Justice Brown did not, as I did, propose a separate motion court for summary judgments, separate from procedural motions. But his words are timely and represent an awakening to the need for court modernization.

Judge Brown deserves our praise for speaking candidly about the role of judicial resource administration in problems we face in the justice system. We in the practicing Bar can only encourage more transparency from the judiciary. Judges blaming lawyers will never replace cleaning out the stables. This author, in any event, will offer thanks to him for encouraging the debate. This time, you met me half way.

Terms of use / Mentions légales

In 2012, make everything you do important, because it is.

January, 2012, in my tiny personal blogosphere, will see the launch of my first monthly column for a national legal e-zine. The piece, still in draft, is about procrastination, no less. Insha’Allah, I’ll meet my first deadline.

(le sommaire en français suit)

During the last days of 2011, it’s hard to put the law on pause. I’ve unplugged the telly from Cable, lost a motion in the Toronto Masters court, and thought out loud why the articling crisis is a made-in-Ontario problem. Writing a blog on mentorship naturally requires a modicum of navel-gazing. By definition, this requires an out-of-body experience. (The secret to being a mentor or a mentee?)

People Watching – Part of Learning to be a Lawyer

As I waited for my hearing before the Master, I have to admit a feeling of displacement anxiety. However, I quickly overcame it to observe a great interaction between the bench and bar. The vast majority of counsel appearing before Masters are students and new lawyers. There is a palpable tension and genuine mentor-mentee relationship, although there are limits on Masters’ ability to show it. From my informal discussions with Masters, I can attest to a true affection on their part for the young counsel appearing before them.

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