Globe and Mail

Judicial council welcomes public, ordinary judges

Saturday, November 30, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A7
The Globe and Mail

The Canadian Judicial Council is going to open its exclusive doors for the first time to ordinary judges.

The council has decided also to appoint laymen to an advisory committee that will provide the governing body with views from the outside world, says a report released yesterday on the future of the CJC.

Yesterday, Manitoba Chief Justice Richard Scott, who helped write the report, described the changes as an "exciting" move forward. He said they constitute proof of how seriously the council takes the idea of being in touch with both the public and lower-court judges.

"We certainly didn't think the institution is in a state of crisis or anything close to that," Chief Justice Scott said in an interview.

"We just thought it was about time that we had a look into this. Council is an evolving institution, and we are in the process of positioning ourselves to be more relevant to the public whose interest we serve."

The judicial council decides policy on matters ranging from court procedures and courthouse security to the use of technology. It also considers allegations of misconduct against federally appointed judges.

Many of recommendations in the report apply to the inner workings of the council and its committee structure. However, Chief Justice Scott said the provisions for opening up the council to outsiders is a dramatic development.

Throughout its 30-year history, membership on the council has been restricted to chief justices and associate chief justices, which has led to allegations that it is aloof and out of touch.

While representatives of the next tier of judges -- known as puisne judges -- will not become full-fledged members of the council, they can be on several key committees.

Chief Justice Scott said the change is likely to be warmly greeted in their ranks.

"They weren't clamouring for this or pounding the table, but I'll be surprised if the judges and their association are not pleased with it."

The report's introduction stresses that the council has heard criticisms of its relevancy and intends to respond.

"In this committee's view, the council must become a more dynamic and productive body if it is to continue to fulfill its mandate," it states.

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