INDEPTH: SUPREME COURT
The newest justices
CBC News Online | February 24, 2006
Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein
Supreme Court judge-designate
Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein was appointed to the Federal Court of Canada in 1992, 26 years after graduating from the University of Manitoba with a law degree. He was called to the bar within months of his graduation.
Marshall Rothstein (Courtesy Steve Sharlow)
From 1970 until he was named a judge, he worked at the Winnipeg firm of Aikins, MacAulay and Thorvaldson and taught law at the University of Manitoba. He specialized in transportation law, commercial and labour arbitrations and administrative law and litigation.
Rothstein chaired Manitoba's Commission on Compulsory Retirement, which was set up in 1981 and reported in 1982. In the wake of its findings, the province ended mandatory retirement at age 65, except for members of university faculties.
In 1990, Rothstein chaired a federally appointed committee that studied air traffic flow under a Canada-U.S. open skies policy. As a judge, he presided over a wide range of cases on access to information, tax, immigration, environmental issues and trademark law.
But he's probably best known for a ruling he authored in 2000, a year after he was appointed to the Federal Court of Appeal. He was part of a panel of three judges that overturned a lower court ruling that the so-called Harvard mouse could not be patented in Canada. The genetically modified mouse was developed at the university for cancer research.
"The oncomouse is both unobvious and a new and useful 'composition of matter,' " Rothstein wrote in the judgment. "Therefore, it is an `invention' within the meaning of that term in Section 2 of the Patent Act."
The decision meant that, for the first time, a mammal could be patented in Canada. But two years later, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the ruling.
In June 2005, Rothstein was a guest speaker at Oxford University's Said Business School. The topic of his speech was the treatment by Canadian courts of famous trademarks. He used the opportunity to show that he's not just a dry, intellectual jurist - but that he also has a sense of humour. He offered tips to lawyers who found themselves before judges arguing intellectual property cases. Among them were:
Rothstein was on a short list of Supreme Court nominees put together for the government of Paul Martin before the Jan. 23, 2006, federal election. The opposition parties had some input in that list.
Rothstein is the first Supreme Court nominee to face questions from a Commons committee. Days before proposing Rothstein as the newest Supreme Court justice, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that nominees to the high court would face three hours of televised questioning by an all-party committee.
- Donít worry about being unfamiliar with the material. The judges like long breaks. They can take a nap while you try to find what you are looking for.
- Donít answer hard questions from a judge. Just plow along with your argument. The judge will probably forget the question anyway.
- Donít worry if the judges stop writing. It means they are mesmerized by the force of your argument.
That process may evolve before the next Supreme Court vacancy. Morris Fish is scheduled to retire in 2014.
Rosalie Silberman Abella set several firsts when she was appointed a judge of the Ontario family court in 1976. At 29, she became Canada's youngest judge. She was also the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the bench and the first pregnant judge.
Abella graduated from the University of Toronto Law School in 1970 and practised both civil and criminal law until she became a judge.
Abella is known as a strong supporter of minority rights. In 1992, she was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Six years later, she made a landmark decision on same-sex rights. She ruled that same-sex partners could seek spousal benefits including survivor benefits under the Income Tax Act.
Same-sex rights will be at the forefront when the Supreme Court of Canada convenes in the fall of 2004. One of the first cases on the agenda is the federal government's reference to the court on the highly controversial issue.
In 1984, Abella chaired the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment. Her report, in which she coined the term and concept of "employment equity," advocated a new strategy for reducing barriers in employment faced by women, aboriginal people, non-whites, and persons with disabilities.
The theories of "equality" and "discrimination" she developed in her report were adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in its first decision dealing with equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Abella has chaired the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the Ontario Law Reform Commission, and the Study on Access to Legal Services by the Disabled. She has written more than 70 articles and written or co-edited four books on a variety of legal topics. She lectures extensively in Canada and internationally.
She has 20 honorary degrees, and was awarded the 2003 International Justice Prize of the Peter Gruber Foundation and the 2004 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award for Human Rights by the Canadian Bar Association and the International Commission of Jurists.
She is also a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in classical piano.
Abella was born on July 1, 1946, in a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany and came to Canada as a refugee in 1950.
A graduate of the University of Ottawa (1975), Louise Charron began her legal career when she was called to the bar of Ontario in 1977. She moved into civil litigation with the firm Lalonde, Chartrand & Gouin in Ottawa. She was also a part-time assistant Crown attorney.
In 1980, Charron left private practice to become a full-time assistant Crown attorney for the Judicial District of Ottawa-Carleton. From 1985 to 1988, she also taught law at the University of Ottawa. Charron, a fluently bilingual Franco-Ontarian, moved to the bench on Sept. 29, 1988, when she was appointed a judge of the District Court of Ontario. She was promoted to the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1995.
Charron has been no stranger to controversy in her career as a judge. She has a reputation as a progressive on social issues. On July 31, 2000, Charron was part of a three-member panel of Ontario Court of Appeal judges that ruled federal marijuana possession laws unconstitutional. The judges gave Ottawa a year to rewrite the law to take into account the needs of people who should be allowed access to cannabis for medical reasons.
Three years later, Charron refused a federal Justice Department request to stay a ruling by an Ontario Superior Court judge that acquitted a youth on marijuana possession charges because there was no law to charge him under. Several rulings by the province's courts found that the federal government failed to act on the 2000 case declaring the marijuana laws unconstitutional.
Charron also played a pivotal role in the debate over rights for same-sex couples. In December 1996, she wrote the judgment in an Ontario ruling that allowed members of same-sex couples to seek alimony. The case involved a lesbian couple, known only as M and H. The couple had lived together and bought a house, but the relationship ended after four years and M sued H for support.
"The evidence is overwhelming that cohabitation between partners who have intimate relationships, regardless of sexual orientation, creates emotional and financial inter-dependencies," Charron wrote in the 2-1 decision.
"The evidence also shows that the same needs for dispute resolution exist upon break-up of these types of intimate relationships, regardless of sexual orientation."
Charron gave the Ontario government a year to rewrite a section of the Family Law Act that defined a common-law couple as a man and a woman who had lived together for three years.
More recently, Charron has chaired a panel hearing allegations of sexual misconduct against a Barrie, Ont., judge, whom eight female Barrie courthouse employees have accused of touching them inappropriately.
Charron didn't get into law to become a judge. On July 24, 2004, in an address to young lawyers just called to the bar in Ontario, she said when she was starting out, she thought she wanted to be a private practitioner, focusing on corporate or commercial law.
"But one thing for sure, I would have said, 'I will not be doing litigation the courtroom is not for me.' But surprisingly enough, I found out that what I loved the most was litigation, and that the best environment that would allow me to develop my potential was the courtroom. That discovery was unexpected and still astounds me at times."
Charron also served on the Ontario Police Commission in 1998. From 1994-96, she was associate director of the National Judicial Institute. From September 2003 to April 2004, she was associate director of the National Judicial Institute during judicial study leave.