Credentials and Evaluation Standards [HISTORICAL CONTENT]


Canadian law, the Supreme Court Act, R.S.C., 1985, lays out who can be appointed to the highest court in the land. S C 1985, c S 26 "Any person may be appointed a judge who is or has been a judge of a superior court of a province or a barrister or advocate of at least ten years standing at the bar of a province," as stated in Section 5. ”

A person must meet the following criteria in order to be considered for appointment to Canada's highest court:

(1)     a sitting member of a provincial or territorial high court, including an appeals court;

(2)     one who has previously served as a judge on such a court;

(3)     a practicing lawyer with ten or more years' experience at the provincial bar;

(4)     a retired lawyer with at least ten years' experience practicing law

For the appointment of three Quebec judges, there are unique procedures. "At least three of the judges shall be appointed from among the judges of the Court of Appeal or the Superior Court of the Province of Quebec or from among the advocates of that Province," as stated in Section 6. The Supreme Court has stated that only serving superior court judges (i e Judges from the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Quebec Superior Court, as well as practicing lawyers who have been admitted to the Quebec bar for at least ten years, are eligible for appointment to one of the three Quebec seats on the Supreme Court.

Each Supreme Court justice must reside within 40 kilometers of the nation's capital. Any prospective Supreme Court justice must either already comply with this requirement or commit to doing so upon appointment.

Bilingualism that is actually useful

It is the policy of the government to only appoint judges who are fully bilingual.   

Supreme Court proceedings are held in both English and French. Counsel may present oral argument in either language and submit written materials in either language. Judges have the option of asking questions in either English or French. A judge on the Supreme Court should be able to read documents and follow oral argument in both French and English without the aid of translation or interpretation. When hearing oral argument, it is preferable that the judge can communicate fluently in either English or French with both counsel and his or her fellow Court colleagues.

Criteria for Evaluating

The expectations placed on Canada's highest court's judges are varied, nuanced, and, on occasion, even contradictory. The Supreme Court's role, in particular, has grown in significance as Canada has developed into a fully-fledged constitutional democracy. Appointments to the Court must be made in a way that reflects both the needs of a court of final appeal and the unique characteristics of Canadian society and law. The criteria should help the Court do its job, which includes settling disputes between various groups, informing the Canadian public of its rulings, upholding the constitution, and preserving the rule of law.

Individual and institutional dimensions can be used to classify assessment criteria. Person-specific criteria focus on what potential candidates bring to the table in terms of their education, work history, and other personal attributes. The candidate's potential for excellence in the judicial function should be evaluated by considering their legal training, non-legal professional experience, and community involvement, all of which will vary greatly from person to person. It's important to have the right judicial temperament, and there are many personal factors to consider. The standards set by institutions and those of individuals will often overlap. However, as the make-up of the Court changes over time, new requirements may arise that must be met if the Court is to fulfill its general and final appellate function in all areas of law.

The candidates will be evaluated based on how well they demonstrate the knowledge, abilities, and character traits that the Court is looking for at the time. For the selection procedure to be successful, it is essential that some degree of adaptability be maintained.

Abilities and Background

1        Proven expertise in the legal system

Appointments are based primarily on a candidate's demonstrated ability to judge effectively. All types of cases and references from public, private, and even international law can be brought before the Supreme Court. In a wide range of Supreme Court hearings, motions, and appeals, judges are tasked with interpreting and applying the relevant statute and rules. So, those who aspire to serve on the Court must have extensive legal knowledge, especially of Canadian law. Indigenous legal knowledge may also be taken into account. This level of expertise may be attained through formal education in the law, practical experience in the field, reading and analyzing authoritative legal writing, or service on the bench.

Cases from all provinces and territories, including Quebec (which adheres to a civil law tradition for most private law matters), are heard by the Supreme Court, which has exclusive jurisdiction over matters falling under federal jurisdiction. For this reason, in-depth familiarity with the common law Candidates for the six non-Quebec seats must have a solid grasp of the common law tradition, while those seeking election to the three Quebec seats must have an in-depth understanding of the civil law tradition. Being conversant in Canada's other legal tradition is also an asset.

2        Extensive analytic prowess

Judiciary work requires the ability to integrate, differentiate, compare, and contrast information from numerous sources. They need to quickly and accurately ascertain which parts of the massive body of knowledge known as "the law" are pertinent to a given legal question, and then analyze, weigh, and resolve conflicts between those parts. An appellate judge's duties also include looking over rulings from lower courts, figuring out why they were wrong, telling the difference between questions of fact and law, and giving the appropriate amount of deference or correcting the lower courts as the case may be. These are all analytical tasks that call for exceptional skill and judgment.

3        Competence in resolving difficult legal matters

The Supreme Court's primary role is to resolve legal disputes and offer explanations for its rulings. A judge's role as an adjudicator entails more than just listening to a case; they must also render a decision. Appeals cases can be difficult to settle because the underlying issues typically involve reasonable opposing arguments. The dispute at hand must be resolved, and lower courts must be given adequate guidance to decide future cases like this one, but a judge must be able to reach a sound decision, to support that decision with reasons, and to provide the requisite certainty.

As a result, having some background in the judicial process is helpful but not required. There are many venues for adjudication, such as trial and appellate courts, as well as administrative tribunals and arbitration bodies. Appointment to the Supreme Court is based on merit alone; however, having prior appellate judicial experience may be especially helpful given that the Supreme Court is itself an appellate court.

4        Capability to understand and analyze the social setting of legal disputes

A judge should show both a general awareness of, and an interest in learning about, the social problems that give rise to the types of cases that end up in court. They need to be aware of shifting cultural norms as they pertain to the issues before the Supreme Court. Cases heard by the Supreme Court often involve more than just arcane legal issues. Instead, they involve intricate interplays between the law and fact, especially social facts that shed light on the reasoning behind, the practical application of, and the social and individual consequences of a given statute. Constitutional cases feature prominently, but are not limited to, this interaction between law and social fact. Therefore, a judge must be able to hear evidence and argument regarding these social facts, or context, and apply them correctly to resolve the particular questions at handa target="_blank" href="MY_REDIRECT_PREFIX">/a>.

5        A capacity for clear thought and expression, especially in written form

The Supreme Court is required by law and custom to provide written explanations for its rulings, and it usually does so. The Court's most important means of communicating with the parties, other courts, other branches of government, and the Canadian public is through its decisions. Explaining the reasoning behind a ruling on a legally murky issue is much easier with the aid of reasons. The Court's obligation to instruct lower courts on how to apply its decisions in future cases is fulfilled by the disclosure of its reasoning. Because of how important it is for justices on the Court to be able to express themselves clearly in writing, it is necessary to look at candidates' samples of prior work. The term "legal writing" encompasses a wide variety of texts, including judicial opinions, reports, memoranda of legal arguments, books, treatises, and scholarly articles. Clarity, precision, knowledge of the law, persuasiveness, and a sense of equilibrium are some of the criteria that may be used to evaluate the writing. Most of the readings will likely be of a legal nature, but even material outside the realm of law may prove useful.

6        The capacity to work under intense time constraints that necessitate the careful examination of large volumes of material in any area of law

Appeals in any and all legal fields are heard by the Supreme Court. The nine-person panel divides up various judicial responsibilities. The Supreme Court cases can have hundreds of pages of evidence, and the judges often have to juggle several cases at once. It is necessary for judges to read through documents in order to prepare for cases, read through documents in order to write decisions, and read through drafts and memos from colleagues. The pressure to perform is ever present and intense. Therefore, the job calls for a lot of stamina, diligence, and intelligence.

7        Dedication to helping the public good

In addition to their constitutional duty as neutral arbiters of disputes, judges play an important social role and provide a necessary public service. Participation in community and volunteer organizations as evidence of a dedication to giving back to the community is a positive trait.

Qualities Unique to the Individual

1        Undeniable moral rectitude in all aspects of life and work

"The judge is the pillar of the entire justice system and of the rights and freedoms which that system is designed to promote and protect," the Supreme Court has stated. Judges should be role models for the values that underpin the rule of law.

So, it is reasonable for Canadians to assume that judges will act with the utmost integrity. "The ability of Canada's legal system to function effectively and to deliver the kind of justice that Canadians need and deserve depends in large part on the ethical standards of our judges," said Canada's Chief Justice. "Public confidence in and respect for the judiciary are essential to an effective judicial system and, ultimately, to democracy founded on the rule of law," states the Canadian Judicial Council's Ethical Principles for Judges. ” 

2        Consideration and respect for others

Consisting of nine judges who regularly and consistently work and sit together, the Supreme Court is a collegial court. The highest level of national importance is dealt with by its judges. None of their rulings can be challenged in any other Canadian court. Each judge must have the ability to work well with his or her peers and engage in healthy debate. And judges need to be especially careful when dealing with people in lower social classes. They should be an example of professionalism, respect, and courtesy at all times.

3        The capacity to value and learn from differences in opinion, experience, and background, especially as they pertain to marginalized groups in Canadian society

A judge's decision will always be informed by his or her common sense and years of experience, in addition to the law. In light of this, it is essential that their view is neither overly limited nor resistant to alteration. A judge needs to be able to relate to people who don't share her experiences or perspectives.  

4        Fortitude in moral matters

The Canadian Constitution recognizes judicial independence as an unwritten constitutional principle. That's why it's there: to safeguard judges' independence from pressure and outside interference in their decision-making. International respect is due in large part to the high level of judicial independence in Canada. However, the Supreme Court Justices must sometimes deal with extremely difficult cases. They might have to make a call that goes against what the government has publicly stated it wants, what the public thinks, or what their peers believe. A certain amount of bravery is needed.

5        Discretion

Judges often have access to highly private and sensitive information Their conversations are confidential and off-limits for public consumption. Therefore, judges must always maintain the utmost discretion.

6        Open-mindedness

To be able to look at any case with an open mind is a crucial skill for any judge. It should be made clear that judges are not expected to act without bias. A candidate's public stance on a matter that could come before the Supreme Court is not grounds for disqualification. A judge, however, must project an image of being able to weigh the evidence and argument in a particular case fairly and impartially, and to put aside any preexisting personal opinions, before a decision can be considered just and upheld.

Needs of the Court's Institutions a href="MY_REDIRECT_PREFIX" target="_blank">/a>a href="MY_REDIRECT_PREFIX">/a>

1        Keeping in mind the historical distribution of public and private law expertise in Supreme Court appeals, and making sure there is a reasonable balance between the two

Appeals from provincial and territorial courts of appeal, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Court of Appeal for Canadian Military Convictions are heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, Canada's highest court of appeal. Most recent data suggests that roughly a quarter of the cases heard by the Supreme Court are criminal cases that do not involve the Charter, another almost a fifth are criminal Charter cases, and another fifth are non-criminal constitutional/Charter cases. Although the Court's workload includes cases outside of the above categories, those categories are among the most heavily utilized.

2        Background knowledge in an area that is underrepresented on the Court but is frequently cited in appeals

Because of the wide range of issues that may come before the Court, it is essential that its judges have a wide range of backgrounds and specializations. Depending on the nature of the vacancy, the Court may seek out individuals with the following backgrounds and skillsets to fill the position: e g criminal, federal, administrative, and business law

3        Making sure the Supreme Court of Canada has a good cross-section of people from different backgrounds

While Canada has one of the most diverse populations, this is not reflected in its official policies. Throughout history, the Supreme Court has stood as a symbol of the American justice system. Having a court that is reasonably representative of Canada's diverse population ensures that justices in each case can draw from a wider pool of expertise and experience. The public's trust in the judicial system and the selection process benefits from a Court that can reasonably reflect on its own actions.

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