Osgoode grad touted for Supreme Court

When Paul Martin picks up the phone in the coming months to offer two coveted spots on the Supreme Court of Canada, he might decide to reach into the bar instead of the bench and select star criminal lawyer and Osgoode grad Marlys Edwardh (LLB’74), reported the National Post May 6. Her name has been widely circulating in Toronto’s legal community as a dark-horse candidate to replace Justice Louise Arbour, whose June departure leaves a shortage of judges who specialize in civil liberties and the rights of the criminally accused. Edwardh, 54, knows her name has been circulating, but she stresses that she is not seeking publicity, which is widely shunned in the polite contest to be elevated to the Supreme Court.

“I’m not running any race or campaigning for any position,” said Edwardh in an interview at an Ottawa hotel, where she expects to be spending a lot of time this summer working on her latest big case – representing Maher Arar at a public inquiry into his detention in a Syrian prison. Edwardh and Clayton Ruby (BA ’63) have been a legal team since he made her a law partner when she was fresh out of Osgoode Hall Law School in 1974. Today, Edwardh has the distinction of being the most senior female criminal lawyer in Canada, running a varied and successful practice out of a renovated Victorian home in central Toronto.

Her road to prominence began almost two decades ago, when she worked as a lawyer for the inquiry into conflict-of-interest allegations against former Conservative cabinet minister Sinclair Stevens. She was later commission counsel in the Krever inquiry into the tainted blood scandal. And she represented Donald Marshall in the public inquiry into how the Mi’kmaq from Nova Scotia spent 11 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. But it is the renowned 1988 trial of sleepwalker Ken Parks that elevated Edwardh to the upper echelons of criminal law, at least in terms of media coverage. She remains the only lawyer in the country to have persuaded a jury to accept sleepwalking as a defence for murder. The jury found Parks not guilty by reason of insanity, agreeing he was sleepwalking when he drove 23 kilometres and killed his mother-in-law at her Scarborough townhouse. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the verdict. “I never once doubted that it was the truth,” Edwardh said. “I think some of that commitment to it is reflected in why a jury would accept it. It wasn’t a flash in the pan trying to have a sexy defence. I passionately believed it.”

Ban corporate donations to election campaigns, says prof

Robert MacDermid, a political science professor with York’s Faculty of Arts and an expert on party financing, says corporate contributions should be banned altogether because they are nearly impossible to track and inherently anti-democratic, reported CanWest News Service May 4 in a story about the Cortellucci group donating to both Ontario Liberal and Conservative party campaigns. “The only people who know for certain who owns private corporations are the income tax authorities and they don’t tell,” MacDermid said, noting this situation would make it difficult for political parties to control who gives them money. “Also corporations are not citizens – they can’t vote or run for office so why are they involved in the process at all? Allowing them to give money is also discriminatory because it allows a certain class of people who have wealth in the form of a corporation to give twice – once through the corporation and again as individuals. That to me is out and out discrimination.”

Curvy equals fertile: study

Women with narrow waists and large breasts (such as Mae West, Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield) are more fertile than those with less pronounced curves, say researchers who tested the hormone levels of Polish women, reported the National Post May 6. Recent Canadian research has also suggested men are becoming less interested in the hourglass shape. Maryanne Fisher, a doctoral candidate in York University’s psychology department who analyzed Playboy centrefolds from 1953 to the present day, found curvy bodies are gradually giving way to more androgynous-looking women. Fisher said the Polish findings are interesting, but she fears they will encourage women to feel bad if they do not have hourglass figures. She is also skeptical because the researchers say the findings apply only to Western societies. “If it’s only relevant to Westernized society, then I’m not sure if their evolutionary implications are as valid as they’re claiming,” she said. “That’s where I start to wonder why this is not evident across cultures.”

Make amends

The Globe and Mail’s Susan Pinker advised a letter-writer, worried about having inadvertently submitted the same expenses twice, that he should document what happened in a letter and send it to his company’s accounts department along with a cheque to cover the error. This course of action, said the columnist May 5, was recommended by Linda Thorne, a professor of accounting at York’s Schulich School of Business. The columnist added that the writer should also tell all to his branch manager.

On air

  • Neil Wiener, a psychology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the war in Iraq and how it has been affected by the country’s proportionately large population of young men, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” May 5.