The Canadian Bar Association
Criminal

Moon’s criminal practice inspired by classics, pop culture

When Brampton criminal lawyer Michael Moon has a case on trial, he lives it.

“I don’t take on many clients, and I tell them, ‘When it’s your turn, I’m 100 per cent focused on you,’” Moon, founder and director of the Brampton criminal and constitutional firm Moon Rozier L.P.C., tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“They get me 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the trial is complete.”

Moon quotes Paul Newman’s character from the 1982 film The Verdict: “There are no other cases. This is the case.”

He draws on pop culture and classical sources alike for ideas and inspiration. Moon's email signature is followed by quotations from great thinkers like Theodore Roosevelt, and he’s been known to cite passages from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in court. He says these wise words offer a sort of “applied philosophy” to criminal law.

“It gives a full historical context,” Moon says. “Philosophy is integral because if you’re in a complex case you have to apply critical thinking.”

These deep, sometimes ancient notions of justice help balance Moon’s more immediate experience of the “grinding maw of the machine” that is the criminal justice system. He’s had a front-row seat through dozens of cases, acting as defence counsel, including trials for the Bandidos and the Toronto 18.

Moon calls juries ”judicial bumblebees.”

“They’re not supposed to work during a trial, but they often do,” he says.

He details the unlikeliness of it: taking 12 people with no criminal antecedents away from their lives for what could be months; confronting them with people and facts — often gruesome — that they would never encounter otherwise; exposing them to the dizzying complexities of the law; and then tasking them to make a decision with incredibly high stakes.

“By any logical measure, that’s a recipe for disaster,” Moon says. “But one of the things that juries bring, and it’s sometimes worth five tons of books, is common sense. It’s really quite astounding how often they arrive at the right decision.”

Moon is at a point in his career where he's selective about the cases he accepts. After some 50 murder trials, he says there has to be something unique, either in a legal or factual sense, to pique his interest, including matters with broader social implications.

He points to a past case in which his client was charged with disposing of the remains of a fetus. It was based on a law dating from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when abortion was a capital offence and out of step with the current climate, where abortion is legal.

“There were pretty serious potential intrusions into a woman’s reproductive rights,” Moon says.

The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, and his client was eventually acquitted at retrial, he says.

That overarching sociopolitical component is one of the reasons Moon says he became a lawyer, and it motivates him still.

“We look to be on the cutting edge of these social policy issues,” he says. “Whether it’s aboriginal sentencing and trials or allegations of race-based detention and arrest by the police, things that are topical but are not being dealt with politically. Criminal law can be blunt, but you can make change.”

Moon Rozier L.P.C. offers representation on all summary conviction and indictable offences, from shoplifting to drug possession or trafficking, to homicide and terrorism.

Moon's approach is, "We never admit to anything. They’re going to have to prove it. We don’t look for deals from the Crown. You need agreement if you’re trying to work out a plea. We never need to worry about it,” he says, as most of his clients are facing prison time regardless.

“They have nothing to lose by going to trial,” he says.

And when it comes to the more disturbing aspects of his cases, he attempts to cultivate a professional detachment.

“I think of them as factors in an overarching calculus or matrix,” he says.

It’s the same way with his clients, with whom personal connections are counter-productive.

“If you think of them as friends, you might not be able to make a decision that delivers a necessary short-term pain for a long-term gain,” he says. “If they were friends, it would be agonizing.”

Moon is clear with his clients about his role.

“You’re in a world of trouble,” he tells them. "And I'm here to help."

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