Supreme Court to rule Friday on Harper’s nomination of Nadon

Supreme Court to rule Friday on Harper’s nomination of Nadon by Sean Fine, March 17, 2014, The Globe and Mail
The Supreme Court of Canada will rule on Friday whether to accept or reject Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s latest choice for that court, the first time it has had to decide on the legal qualifications of an appointee in its 139-year history. The ruling will have national-unity implications, at a time when Quebec is in the middle of a fraught election campaign. It also has implications for Mr. Harper’s ability to choose the kinds of judges he wishes for the court. Judge Marc Nadon…tends to be deferential to legislators. The court has been sitting with just eight members since the appointment in late September, meaning a larger workload for each judge and the possibility of tie votes.

Mr. Harper’s choice was controversial for many reasons. Justice Nadon was the first semi-retired judge elevated to the Supreme Court, and legal observers did not consider him at the front of judicial ranks. But he was also the first Federal Court judge named to fill one of three seats reserved by law for Quebec on the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Act does not expressly make Federal Court judges eligible for Quebec’s seats on the court. Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati challenged the appointment in Federal Court, and the Quebec National Assembly followed by passing a unanimous resolution opposing the nomination, saying that current knowledge of that province’s civil-law system and legal environment are needed. Some legal observers argue that Federal Court judges were not meant to be considered for Quebec seats on the Supreme Court. When Parliament created the court in 1875, it sought to reassure Quebeckers that judges would have current knowledge of the civil code, which governs such matters as family and property law. But the federal government argued that the law should be interpreted to mean that the best and the brightest can qualify for appointment to the Supreme Court. “It’s going to be tremendously exciting because the case has morphed beyond the initial question about statutory interpretation, to Quebec’s place in our legal system and to questions about constitutional amendments,” Carissima Mathen, a University of Ottawa law professor, said in an interview. “It has the potential to be one of the most important decisions from the Supreme Court this year, and in the last several years,” Prof. Mathen said. [Emphasis added]

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