Federal Court had ruled accepting interim dean position at Lakehead law school didn’t breach Judges Act
The Canadian Judicial Council will not appeal the Federal Court decision concerning Patrick Smith, a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.
Appealing the decision would not serve the public interest, the CJC said in a press release. Instead, the CJC intends to promptly comply with all aspects of the decision in Smith v. Canada (Attorney General), 2020 FC 629.
In 2018 Justice Smith accepted an appointment as interim dean at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, with the approval of the Superior Court’s chief justice and the federal justice minister. The CJC’s judicial conduct review panel, constituted by Quebec Superior Court Associate Chief Justice Robert Pidgeon as vice-chairperson of the Judicial Conduct Committee, held that Smith had violated the Judges Act, RSC 1985, c J-1, as well as breached his ethical obligations as a judge when he accepted the appointment.
Justice Smith challenged the CJC’s decisions and brought into issue the interpretation of several provisions of the Judges Act, including s. 55, which states that federally appointed judges should exclusively dedicate themselves to their judicial duties and should not engage in occupations or businesses other than these judicial duties.
Justice Russel Zinn, writing for the Federal Court, said that Justice Smith had not breached s. 55. Zinn also wrote that the review panel’s decision was unreasonable and that the CJC’s procedure had been unfairly applied, so, Smith’s applications for judicial review should be allowed.
In its news release the CJC said that the Federal Court decision emphasized the urgent need for amendments to the Judges Act.
“The time has come to move forward with legislative reforms in this regard, together with a renewed governance structure within Council,” said Richard Wagner, Canada’s chief justice and the CJC’s chairperson, in the release. Wagner called the current procedures for addressing judicial conduct matters “too slow, opaque, and out-of-date.”
“The decision establishes important precedent with respect to the Federal Court’s supervisory jurisdiction over the CJC, and the proper conduct of its investigative and disciplinary functions within the Canadian constitutional context,” said Stockwoods LLP in a release, whose lawyers Brian Gover, Andrea Gonsalves and Pam Hrick acted for Justice Smith.
The CJC is collaborating with the Canadian Superior Court Judges Association and the Department of Justice in reforming judicial conduct review and in boosting public confidence in the judiciary.