Toronto Star

Friday, June 11, 1999

Supreme Court Appointment

Lawyers applaud Arbour's selection

By Jennifer Quinn
Toronto Star Staff Reporter

Louise Arbour's appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada wasn't really a surprise for her colleagues in the legal community - but it was great news.

``It's a magnificent appointment,'' Alan Gold, president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, said yesterday. ``She's just so highly regarded in this province. She's got expertise in criminal law, and we just think that's a wonderful appointment.''

A former trial judge as a member of Ontario's Supreme Court and professor at Osgoode Hall, Arbour, 52, has been leading the United Nations war crimes tribunal. Two weeks ago, she indicted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity.

Arbour replaces Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory, who announced his retirement last month. She takes her place on the bench Sept. 15.

Arbour was appointed to Ontario's Court of Appeal in 1990, and ``we were looking forward to her coming back one day, but we're hardly taken by surprise,'' Chief Justice Roy McMurtry said.

``I guess nobody's really very surprised, but we're very disappointed to lose her from the court,'' McMurtry added. ``She served the Court of Appeal with great distinction.''

Arbour brings with her an extensive background in criminal law, and that will serve her well, Gold said.

``Criminal law is such an important part of their business - although I think people like Ian Binnie and the Chief Justice (Antonio Lamer) are quite expert in criminal law - she's written some leading criminal law decisions in this province, and she'd be excellent,'' he said.

Alan Borovoy, counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said Arbour - who was a member of their board during the 1980s - has a strong background in advocating for accused people.

``She's a real expert in the criminal law, and has always showed a real concern that accused people have fair trials and be treated according to the requirements of due process and fair play,'' Borovoy said.

In 1995, Arbour led a federal inquiry into the possible abuse of human rights of eight inmates at Kingston's Prison for Women who were strip-searched by male guards.

``She's an excellent legal scholar with a lot of practical experience,'' McMurtry said. ``She's just a very good judge - very articulate - and what you look for in any judge is the combination of scholarship and good common sense. And she certainly possesses all of those qualities.''

Borovoy said, when Arbour speaks, he stops and listens.

``She happens to be a word I don't use very often to describe people - I will in her case - brilliant.''

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