Skip to content

Ontario Court of Justice appoints two new black women judges

|Written By Jennifer Brown

The Ontario Court of Justice has announced 10 new judicial appointments for the Toronto area, including two black women judges.

The appointments of Rita Jean Maxwell and Lori Beth Montague last Friday increase the number of black women judges in the province to eight. The appointments are effective Oct. 11.

Justice Maxwell was most recently legal counsel for the Ontario Court of Appeal, while at the same time acting as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, in evidence law, and at the Ryerson University Law Practice Program.

Maxwell is an active volunteer with the Ontario Justice Education Network and Law In Action Within Schools program. She was called to the bar in 2002.

Justice Montague was most recently a deputy Crown attorney and previously an assistant Crown attorney for Peel Region. She is a volunteer board member with Operation Springboard and has also volunteered with Victim Services of Peel. She was called to the bar in 1987.

Denise Dwyer, founder and president of the Black Female Lawyers Network, told Legal Feeds that while there is "more work to be done" the appointments are reason to celebrate. 

“Our symbol, Lady Justice, is blindfolded to assure us that she is impartial and not influenced by our differences. Instinctively, ‎we know that public confidence in the legal system is shaped by what we see and experience as ordinary individuals. Our judges and legal professionals should reflect the diversity of our communities to demonstrate inclusivity. While we have made some progress over the years, there is much more work to be done on a systemic level to increase the population of black female lawyers on the bench across Ontario. The recent appointment of the Hon. Justices Lori Montague and Rita Maxwell to the Ontario Court of Justice supports this progress and offers an opportunity to reflect and to celebrate," said Dwyer.

The other black female judges in Ontario include Marlyse Dumel, appointed in March to the Ontario Court of Justice in Ottawa; Justice Valerie Miller of the Tax Court of Canada, who presides in Ottawa and was appointed in 2007; Justice Sandra Bacchus appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 2011; Justice Beth Allen of the Superior Court of Justice, appointed in 2007; Justice Micheline Rawlins, who was the first black woman appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice in 1992; and Justice Faye McWatt of the Superior Court of Justice.

Ontario Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve also appointed Justice Timothy Edward Breen, most recently an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and previously a partner at Fleming Breen, where he focused on criminal defence. Breen has volunteered with Environmental Defence Canada and March of Dimes Canada.

Justice Sandra Caponecchia was most recently acting deputy Crown attorney and prior to this an assistant Crown attorney for Peel Region. She was called to the bar in 1997. In 2014, she also worked as trial counsel at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. Caponecchia has volunteered as a board member for Victim Services of Peel and has actively participated in the training of new recruits, constables and supervisors for the Peel police. Caponecchia will preside in Brampton.

Justice Susan Marie Chapman was most recently a partner at Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson LLP, where she focused on criminal and administrative law. Chapman was called to the bar in 1989 and has volunteered with various women’s rights community organizations, sexual assault centres and legal clinics.

Justice Karen Michelle Erlick has spent most of her career as an assistant Crown attorney, most recently as a team leader in the Vertical File Management System at Old City Hall. Erlick volunteers with the Toronto Lawyers Association’s Lawyers Feed the Hungry fundraising committee and is a coach and trainer with a local girls’ hockey association. She was called to the bar in 2002.

Justice Rachel Grinberg has spent most of her career as a sole practitioner focusing on criminal law. During this time, she was appointed to the Ontario Review Board and has been its designate alternate chairwoman for the past 10 years. Grinberg is a member of the board of directors of the Red Door Family Shelter. She was called to the bar in 1991.

Justice Daniel Francis Moore was most recently counsel with Heller Rubel Barristers, where he focused on criminal law. He has also been a lecturer with Seneca College. He was called to the bar in 1997.

Justice Heather Frances Pringle was most recently a sole practitioner, focusing on criminal law. Pringle has volunteered with the Criminal Lawyers' Association and as a high school mock trial coach. She was called to the bar in 2001.

Justice Vincenzo (Enzo) Rondinelli was most recently with the Pro Bono Law Ontario-Supreme Court of Canada Assistance Program, the Pro Bono Inmate Appeal Program and the Legal Aid Ontario Committee. Rondinelli has also been an adjunct professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School since 2003. He was called to the bar in 1997.

Updated Oct. 4, 2017 to include comment from Denise Dwyer.