Prominent and outspoken lawyers Joseph Groia and Rocco Galati are among the newly elected benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada.
The top vote-getters in this year’s election were Treasurer Janet Minor and incumbent Janet Leiper.
In total, 16 women were elected, including six in Toronto. They include first-time benchers Sandra Nishikawa, Janis Criger, Teresa Donnelly, Gina Papageorgiou, Anne Vespry, and Dianne Corbiere. Incumbents Jacqueline Horvat, Carol Hartman, Susan Richer, and Virginia MacLean as returning to Convocation. So is former bencher Joanne St. Lewis, who served from 2001-9.
“I’m very encouraged by the large number of new benchers,” says Groia, who admits he is in “a state of shock” following news of his election this morning.
“For those of us like me who want to see some real change, we certainly have a lot of new voices at the table,” Groia adds. “There certainly are going to be some exciting days ahead.”
Groia’s election means he could be sitting at Convocation at the same time as he appeals the law society’s incivility findings against him in a high-profile case at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
Nishikawa, a Crown counsel who campaigned on a platform of a more diverse profession as well as access to justice, says she’s happy with the results.
The diversity she advocated for “is reflected in the results of this election,” Nishikawa says. “There’s a pretty strong representation of racialized lawyers . . . and women as well.”
Among newly elected visible minority lawyers are Lewis, a University of Ottawa professor, and Corbiere, the past president of the Indigenous Bar Association. The list also includes Brampton sole practitioner Raj Sharda, and Verspy, an Ottawa family lawyer. Incumbents Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Jeffery Lem, Raj Anand, Jack Braithwaite, and Julian Falconer will also be returning to Convocation.
Only 34 per cent of eligible voters cast their votes in this election, even less than the 37 per cent voter turnout in the 2011 election.
Whether Ontario’s legal profession should embrace alternative business structures became one of the biggest issues in this election. Lawyer Mitch Kowalski, the candidate who vociferously championed that cause, was not elected.
Newly elected benchers include criminal lawyer Jonathan Rosenthal and real estate lawyer Sidney H. Troister in Toronto as well as real estate lawyer Jerry Udell in Windsor, personal injury lawyer Andrew Spurgeon in Hamilton, Ottawa criminal lawyer Peter Beach, labour and employment lawyer Fred Bickford in Thunder Bay, and criminal lawyer Paul Cooper in Concord.
Incumbents Howard Goldblatt, Malcolm Mercer, Peter Wardle, Michael Lerner, Paul Schabas, Christopher Bredt, Ross Earnshaw, Robert Evans, John Callaghan, and William McDowell will come back for another term.
If any bencher has to step down during their term, the candidate who stands at the 21st place in Toronto, Isfahan Merali, may quickly take the vacant spot.
TOP 5 VOTE GETTERS IN TORONTO
Minor, Janet E. 36.98%
Leiper, Janet 33.35%
Anand, Raj 29.67%
Schabas, Paul B. 28.73%
Falconer, Julian 28.39%
TOP 5 VOTE GETTERS OUTSIDE TORONTO
McGrath, Susan 20.62%
Donnelly, Teresa- 20.54%
Horvat, Jacqueline 19.29%
Corbiere, Dianne G. 18.65%
Hartman, Carol 18.35%