Mary Moreau

What experience in your legal career best prepared you for work on the bench? 

I would expand on that question slightly. I think the most useful tools I developed as a lawyer then as a judge came from my experience as an undergrad philosophy student. I was always curious (annoyingly so according to reliable sources). The discipline of philosophy helped channel that curiosity into a critical thinking framework of sorts - that a problem is like a prism to be turned and viewed from all its facets, that social norms should be carefully evaluated for consistency with their purpose - these were lessons I learned in my early twenties that have been a mainstay for me both in private practice and on the bench. When problems are viewed through a multi-dimensional lens there is less risk that details that might derail otherwise viable solutions will be overlooked. Particularly when dealing with family law cases, it helps to question assumptions and to dig deeper than surface issues to understand underlying motivations in order to craft effective long-term solutions. I have learned (or been reminded) to use that ‘pause’ button in my head before giving an oral decision and in my current administrative role to give me time to consider and reflect on issues and potential solutions from all angles.

What advice do you have for counsel who appear before you? Quel conseil donneriez-vous aux juristes qui se présentent devant vous?

I guess it is an extension of my answer to the last question. The adversarial system can easily lead to entrenched positions. Starting with the flurry of pre-trial applications, walls are built that are difficult to break down as the litigation proceeds onward to trial. I am a strong believer in mediated solutions. As parties can lose their way in the adversarial process, the mediator role is important in opening pathways to resolution. Counsel and judges are being called on more and more to take on a resolution-focused role. They should be taking advantage of any early opportunity to peel away the layers preventing resolution of the dispute, get to the heart of the issue, and present creative ways of moving forward. I think restorative justice principles based on restoring the well-being of those whose lives have been affected by wrongdoing or injustice are a useful staging ground for reconciliation in all types of disputes. Counsel who approach legal problems with restorative justice principles in mind such as respect, engagement, support and taking responsibility are well-placed to supply the building blocks to early resolution in all spheres of human conflict. I think that a legal career based on consistently putting these principles to work would be personally very enriching.