by The Honourable Chief Judge Carol Baird Ellan & Margaret Ostrowski, QC
Throughout my involvement with the CBA, it has become increasingly apparent to me that many members are quite unaware of the process involved in becoming a judge. Our members know that one makes an application, maybe gets interviewed and perhaps gets a call from the Attorney General, but that’s it. The Chief Judge and I have endeavoured to set out a brief description of the process to increase understanding of the steps it takes to receive an appointment to the Bench. - Margaret Ostrowski QC
Applications for judicial appointment are distributed on request from the office of the Chief Judge. The application form itself was recently revised by the Judicial Council. Once the completed application form is received at the office of the Chief Judge, a bar report is requested from the CBA Advisory Committee to the Judicial Council. The Chair of that committee assigns the name to one of the committee members who then phones between ten and twenty bar members for a confidential assessment of the candidate’s reputation and suitability. The written report is forwarded on to the Judicial Council. The Chief Judge also requests a report from the Law Society on the applicant’s standing and in addition, seeks comments from judges who are familiar with the applicant or who sit in the area in which the applicant practises.
Once these reports are compiled, they are forwarded to the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is a statutory body comprised of nine members as set out in section 21 of the Provincial Court Act and is chaired by the Chief Judge. It meets 10 to 12 times per year. The Judicial Council has established the following set of criteria which it uses to assess applicants: normally 10 years experience in the practice of law or a range of related experiences, legal reputation, experience in provincial court procedure and mediation or alternate dispute resolution, willingness to adapt and to continue learning, knowledge of current issues in the justice system, effective listening and communication skills, decisiveness, evenness, fairness, open-mindedness, flexibility, ability to cooperate, compassion, humility, common sense, social conscience, enthusiasm, participation in public service and appreciation of and experience with cultural diversity.
The Judicial Council reviews the application form, the Bar Report, the Law Society report and the judges comments and decides whether, in light of the above criteria, the applicant should be interviewed. Candidates are not notified if they are not approved for an interview. Three or four applicants are interviewed at each meeting at the office of the Chief Judge. At the interview, each member asks the applicant questions designed to assess his or her suitability and to address any issues raised by the Bar or Law Society reports. After the interview concludes, the members of the Judicial Council vote on the candidate. Approved candidates are entered onto an approved list. When an opening arises, the Chief Judge sends to the Attorney General the names of the approved candidates who are eligible to sit in the region where the appointment will be made. The Attorney General makes the selection.
The applications for all candidates not selected are kept on file for three years, whether they were interviewed or not. After three years, the applicant may reapply.
The average number of applications received per year for the last six years is 58. The average number of applicants interviewed per year is 33. The average number of approvals per year is 14.5. The average number of judges appointed per year for the last six years is seven.
We hope this is helpful and a good start in demystifying a fair but rigorous process in selecting well qualified candidates to judge our cases.
This article was published in the June 2001 issue of BarTalk. © 2001 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.