Monday, February 27, 2006

"Put A Human Face On Justice": Vic Toews

According to Vic Toews, that was the central purpose of today's proceedings. Indeed, we did see that Marshall Rothstein is a brilliant man, who gives careful consideration to his rulings. However, I think people pretty much assumed that Rothstein's selection, based on rigorous consultations, implies a man who is extraordinary and competent. Considering the fact that today's hearing lack practical "teeth", the little nuggets we learned about Rothstein are overshadowed by the risk to the process.

Interesting to note, that during the proceedings, Rothstein expressed concern that the public hearings didn't "degenerate" to a point where justices are humiliated. There has been much debate as to whether this new approach is a positive in the spirit of openness, or a negative ala the American political circus. Given the fact that this process is not a constitutional requirement, offers no recourse or allows for concrete recommendations, it begs the question- why?

Toews argues that the process humanizes the justice system. I'm not a lawyer, but as I understand it justices interpret the law, based on sound legal argument in such a way that personality should be irrelevant. If we put a "human face" on the judiciary, doesn't it detract from the apolitical climate we strive for in our legal system?

Today's hearings went well, no question. However, I suspect the next time we hear of a court appointment, there will be greater scrutiny, as the media investigates and the opposition "vets". It just seems intuitive to think the process will evolve, in such a way where government and opposition support a nominee, based on their own morality. The hearings are a formality, but the government will be anxious to appeal to their base, and the opposition eager to paint judges as "extreme". I don't think Canada is so unique that it can avoid the trappings of the American process. American judges have become so politicized that no one is surprised to see a 5-4 vote on the 2000 election, with each Republican nominated judge voting against Gore, and each Democratic appointment voting in favor. The law is color blind?

This process isn't necessary from a legal standpoint. Why engage in proceedings that have the potential to politicize the process? The hearings today are simply a public relations coup by the Conservatives to trumpet "transparency" and "openness". Legal minds, with government and public consultation have chosen this man to serve. Why not leave the process out of the limelight, where the temptation for political opportunism is muted? I have a feeling the hearings we see 10 years from now will show no resemblance to the benign, friendly affair we witnessed today.

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