Ontario defenders stew over judicial scalding

Two weeks after a prominent Ontario Court of Appeal judge scalded defence lawyers for their role in grinding down the court system, the defence bar is steaming and scheming over how to respond to his unprecedented attack, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 5.

In his bluntly worded speech to a meeting of judges and senior lawyers, Justice Michael Moldaver accused defence lawyers of stringing out cases to earn higher fees and of engaging in endless, futile motions aimed at invoking Charter of Rights guarantees, the Globe wrote. The attack virtually ignored other players in the justice system who cause delays and logjams, such as police, prosecutors, the judiciary and parliament, said James Stribopoulos, law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Don Stuart, a law professor at Queen’s University. “Over the last 15 years, many areas of the law – not just Charter jurisprudence – have grown far too complex,” they said in a written rebuttal in the Globe’s online edition, Dec. 5. The rest of their letter is below.

  • Justice Michael Moldaver of the Ontario Court of Appeal recently spoke out about what he sees as a cancer on our justice system – punishingly long and needlessly complex criminal trials. He sees the problem as multifaceted but, in identifying the cause, he tends to focus on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and defence lawyers. He sees defence counsel as more concerned with dragging out proceedings with bogus Charter motions to maximize their fees than they are with acting out of a concern for justice.

This is a serious charge against both the Charter and the defence bar, especially coming from someone as respected as Judge Moldaver. In our view, the judge has unfairly targeted all defence counsel.

His remarks are also disturbing to those of us who see the judicial assertion of entrenched Charter standards since 1982 as having constituted the only real check against the lure of law-and-order politics by politicians of all stripes, and the consequent unremittingly legislative trend to toughen the criminal law. We hope they will not result in an undue chilling effect on independent judges exercising their mandate to be “guardians of the Charter.”

His remarks about the proliferation of pretrial Charter motions lasting weeks and months in superior courts has little resonance to provincial courts, where the vast majority of criminal trials now take place in a much shorter time frame and often under tight judicial control.

Student with Down syndrome seeks assistant during exams

York student Ashif Jaffer has Down syndrome. He also has a high school diploma and dreams of a university degree, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 5. But Jaffer, an Ontario scholar at Brebeuf College School in North York where he graduated last spring, says he’s in danger of losing his first semester at York University because officials are refusing to allow him to take a teaching assistant with him into exams as he did throughout high school, according to the Star. Alex Bilyk, York’s director of media relations, refused to comment on Jaffer’s case directly, citing privacy concerns. But Bilyk said one of the keys at York, which has an estimated 2,000 students with disabilities, is “maintaining the integrity of degrees” it issues. “It’s important that the professor has a way to evaluate what the student has absorbed and is able to interpret,” Bilyk said.

Giambrone tracks top TTC post

He’s 29, an archaeologist, and a high achiever, and if all goes as expected, Adam Giambrone will succeed Howard Moscoe as chairman of the third-largest transit system in North America, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 5. A city hall source said Councillor Giambrone, currently vice-chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, is Mayor David Miller’s choice to direct the system.

Giambrone would lead the commission, which oversees the transit system’s operating budget of about $1 billion, at a time of enormous change for the TTC and rising demands for service, wrote the Star. The city is awaiting funding from Ottawa to embark on a $2 billion subway extension to York University, Miller has outlined a plan calling for more light rail transit and right-of-ways for buses and streetcars, and recent polling of Toronto residents identified traffic and public transit among the top concerns.

Mathieu heading to figure skating nationals

North Bay figure skater Chad Mathieu, a York student, earned a berth at the national championships over the weekend, competing at the 2007 Skate Canada Western Challenge in Moncton, NB, reported North Bay Nugget Dec. 5. The top 10 from Western and Eastern Canada qualify for the Canadian Championships in Halifax, Jan. 15 to 22. It will be Mathieu’s second trip to the national championships. Mathieu, a North Bay Figure Skating Club product, is currently training at the Richmond Training Centre in Richmond Hill, Ont., while attending York University.