When he announced his retirement from the bench last year, former Supreme Court of Canada justice Ian Binnie included among the reasons for leaving the notion of returning to Toronto to pick up the threads of his past life.
But as Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Robert Armstrong noted in introducing him during the Toronto Lawyers Association’s Awards of Distinction last night, Binnie has so far made only a handful of appearances in the city, mostly to receive similar honours including another one from the Ontario Bar Association.
Binnie, however, tells Legal Feeds he expects to return to practise here once the restrictions on doing so, due to his ongoing connection to the country’s top court, end next month. He predicts he’ll likely get work involving mediation and arbitration.
In the meantime, he has been working in New Zealand as the commissioner of an inquiry into the wrongful conviction of a man who spent 13 years in jail. As part of that work, he’ll make recommendations to the government on whether to compensate the man.
In introducing Binnie at the ceremony, Armstrong referred to the surprise that greeted his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1998 directly from the bar. Armstrong said he wasn’t surprised, but mused that he would have expected Binnie to go the Ontario Court of Appeal instead. Noting that he wouldn’t mind if there was a right of appeal of Supreme Court decisions to the Ontario Court of Appeal, Armstrong mused to laughter: “Think of what me might have done with that securities regulation case.”
Nevertheless, Armstrong joined the many people and organizations that have been heaping praise on Binnie as of late. “He was the leading counsel of his day before going to the Supreme Court,” he said, adding there’s probably no award that could fully acknowledge Binnie’s accomplishments.
For his part, Binnie responded with praise for the association for being able to renew itself over the years. He also had positive words for the association’s publication, the Toronto Law Journal, which he said is notable for providing useful yet brief information to the profession even when it’s criticizing his own judgments. “You don’t mind being dumped on if you only have to read a few paragraphs,” he said.