And so, it has begun. Lawyers in Ontario have begun publicly declaring their interest in running for the role of bencher for the Law Society of Ontario, in an election set to take place in April 2019.
Important issues have already emerged, such as the future of Pro Bono Ontario Law Help Centres in Toronto and Ottawa, which are slated to close on Dec. 14 due to lack of stable funding. The closure of these centres — which are near and dear to many members of the profession — highlights gaps around access to justice in Ontario that lawyers know persist.
This issue of Law Times looks at some of those problems around access to justice, as well as around public confidence in the role of judges and lawyers at large. There is an excellent column by Andrew Winton, which calls for reform of the Employment Standards Act.
Then there’s reportage on the Canadian Judicial Council’s probe into Superior Court Justice George Patrick Smith’s choice to serve as interim dean at Lakehead University, which resulted in a CJC review panel concluding that Smith contravened the Judges Act but that he acted in good faith and genuinely wanted to help the beleaguered university. Many in the profession have expressed dismay with the CJC’s treatment of Smith.
Lee Akazaki, partner at Gilbertson Davis LLP, says the panel took much too narrow a view of a “judicial duty.” And Brian Gover says he and his client are “still quite concerned about the unsatisfactory process that the Canadian Judicial Council has followed here. The matter will continue to play out legally, with an application for judicial review on the horizon.
Lawyers and judges are thought leaders, which is why their input on matters ranging from jury makeup to pay equity legislation is crucial. In the months to come, more and more people will put their names forward for positions of leadership with the LSO. I hope a diverse set of lawyers — whether it comes to age, education or work and life experience — will consider running.
There are many important issues to navigate and no finite amount of wisdom on how to address the myriad problems facing the profession.