The Profession

'Distinguished' Court of Appeal justice Sharpe to speak at TLA event

By Kathy Rumleski, Contributor

The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) has secured a dynamic speaker and one of the best legal minds in the province for an upcoming event that promises to be an informative night for members, TLA executive director Joan Rataic-Lang tells

“Justice Robert Sharpe of the Court of Appeal for Ontario has a real gift for speaking and he is so highly regarded,” says Rataic-Lang.

Organized by board director and chair of the association’s education committee Mark Gannage, the event is scheduled for May 15 at the TLA Lawyers Lounge. It will feature talented litigator Guy Pratte interviewing Sharpe about his vast experiences in law and his recent book Good Judgment: Making Judicial Decisions.

The Q&A session will provide the audience with an opportunity to ask questions. Gannage, who will moderate, has organized these evenings for the last five years and past speakers include U.S. defence lawyer Mark Geragos and author Norman Bacal.

Rataic-Lang says Sharpe, dean of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law from 1990 to 1995, has had a "distinguished" career since being called to the bar in 1974.

His notable positions include being a member of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) — now the Superior Court of Justice — and executive legal officer at the Supreme Court of Canada, she says.

His numerous honours include being elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, receiving the Ontario Bar Association Distinguished Service Award, and honorary doctoral degrees from the Law Society of Upper Canada and the University of Windsor, says Rataic-Lang.

Sharpe is president of the Osgoode Society for Legal History and president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies.

He has also authored several other books, she says. His latest, Good Judgment: Making Judicial Decisions, is already receiving praise from other noted judges, Rataic-Lang says.

In one review, the Honourable Ian Binnie, former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada notes, “Justice Bob Sharpe is in the grand tradition of our greatest judges. Nobody else could have written this analysis with such practicality, experience, scholarship, and idealism.”

Rataic-Lang says Good Judgment examines the interplay between judicial choice and discipline.

Sharpe was a trial judge for five years and knows how legal disputes can change lives, she says, but he is able to apply the law to the facts.

Rataic-Lang believes one topic that will be touched on during the Q&A is empathy and to what extent is it useful in a judicial decision.

“I think this is what Sharpe is referring to when he talks about judicial discipline. You can be human and be empathetic, but at the end of the day you’re not going to rewrite the law,” she says.

Rataic-Lang muses that perhaps Sharpe will share insights about the thought processes of a judge on the bench.

“What is fueling the questions judges ask? How can counsel be better advocates for their clients by picking up on the subtle clues that might be permeating from the bench? These are important questions,” she says.

Rataic-Lang says the evening will appeal to those in the legal profession as well as others who have an interest in the judicial system.

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