Early reaction to the two Supreme Court nominations announced today suggests the new judges don’t represent a radical change in direction.
“First reax on SCC noms — they’re consistent with past choices. Hard to see attempt to ‘stack’ the court,” law professor Carissima Mathen wrote on Twitter this morning.
Others, however, were surprised to see no one appointed directly from the bar to the top court as justice Ian Binnie had been. “Surprised no choice from the bar to keep Sopinka/Binnie tradition of appointments direct from practice alive,” tweeted Toronto litigator Jean-Marc Leclerc.
The nominations of Ontario Court of Appeal justices Michael Moldaver and Andromache Karakatsanis will be subject to review by an ad hoc parliamentary committee on Wednesday, but it has no power to reject them. That follows a process that began with the appointment of Justice Marshall Rothstein in 2006.
“Certainly not ‘liberal’ nominees, but ‘moderate.’ More importantly, meritorious. Not an attempt at ‘stacking’ the Court,” noted University of Victoria political scientist Emmett Macfarlane in his Twitter comments this morning.
While they don’t appear to represent a major shift on the court, the two nominations are noteworthy for a number of reasons. Karakatsanis, for example, is the first Greek-Canadian to serve on the top court. At the same time, while she was first called to the bar in 1982, she has spent most of her career as a civil servant, including senior roles at the Ontario Liquor Licence Board and later with the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat. She also served as deputy attorney general for Ontario before her appointment as the province’s cabinet secretary. She became an Ontario Superior Court judge in 2002 and now joints the Supreme Court bencher after less than two years at the Court of Appeal.
Moldaver, meanwhile, brings an extensive criminal law background to the top court, a specialty that will help fill a major gap left by the departure of justice Louise Charron. He practised criminal law following his call to the bar in 1973 until his appointment to Supreme Court of Ontario bench in 1990. Besides teaching criminal law at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and serving as director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, he has long been actively involved in continuing legal education. He became an Ontario Court of Appeal judge in 1995.
The two new judges replace retiring justices Ian Binnie and Charron. The pair announced their retirements in May.