Don’t Question The Judge

Jesse Brown interviewed three lawyers – Sandy Garossini, Emilie Taman, and Michael Spratt – on Canadaland Episode #130 (http://canadalandshow.com/podcast/trial-media-media-trial).  The discussion centered on Canadaland’s previous revelation about Justice Horkins’ (the judge in the Ghomeshi case) son working in the same law firm as the brother of prosecutor Marie Henin.  When Jesse introduced the show he described how lawyers, at least those that would go on record, were, in essence, circling the wagons:  He described a nearly universal condemnation of the revelation by all of the lawyers willing to go on record.  The three lawyers on the show all offered a slightly different answer when Jesse asked what made them uncomfortable about Canadaland’s revelation.

Garossini states the aspect that was really concerning was the focus would be put upon the judge and that many people in the public would think that the “game was fixed”.  Taman argues that in the context of Canadaland’s overall coverage of the case an implication that the relationship was problematic could be made.  Lastly, Spratt argued the connection between Horkins and Henin’s brother may have been too tenuous to be a real risk, and asking these questions could do damage to the administration of justice.

Initially I was outraged following this exchange.  Once more the elites protecting their own, I thought.  I have tried to let my thoughts germinate and my ideas around the issue become more focused, but I still come back, as I almost always do, to class.  To understand how these arguments relate to class I would like to briefly talk about each one and then move from there to the issue of class.

If, as Garossini, argues revealing this information could lead many people in the public to believe the game was fixed, doesn’t that say something about our legal system?  The interconnections between judges and law firms should not, if I understand Garossini, be exposed because people may lose faith in our system.  Well if these interconnections cause people to lose faith in our system shouldn’t they be discussed and debated?  The lawyers and judges do not, after all, own the legal system.

Taman’s argument centres on Canadaland’s previous coverage.  Jesse Brown helped unearth the revelations about Ghomeshi that lead the witnesses in this case to come forward.  This coverage was wholly unsympathetic towards Ghomeshi, but there were no unsubstantiated allegations being made, at least to my knowledge (and Taman did not make this point either).  By raising another fact (the son of Justice Horkins does work with the brother of prosecutor Marie Henin) Canadaland is providing more legitimate information to its readers on a story that the outfit has been reporting on for over a year.  If I, as someone who has been following this coverage, decide that the relationship is problematic, then, as someone entitled to my own opinion, isn’t it up to the other side to convince me that it is not problematic?

Spratt’s belief that the connection may have been too tenuous to influence Justice Horkins may have some validity, but it is purely speculation.  Couldn’t one argue that the connection may not have been too tenuous, that familial connections can influence how a person judges a situation?  Again, this is something we don’t know, but something that should be open to discussion.

There may be some validity to each of these points.  I doubt that Justice Horkins based his findings around his desire to enhance or preserve his son’s career.  Yet, as I do not know anything about his son’s career prospects and ambitions, I cannot be sure.

And this is where I get back to my pet issue: class.  If I was accused of any crime, I would likely be unable to afford any defence at all.  Perhaps though, my immediate family would have enough faith in me to seek out remortgages or something to that effect.  Not only would my attempt to defend myself bankrupt me financially it would also probably bankrupt my mother and father.  With so much on the line, imagine I was found guilty. Then imagine I found out that the upper-class son of the judge worked with the upper-class son of the prosecutor.  While I rotted in jail and my family was destroyed, I would blame the justice system.  I would see it as some sort of family compact perpetuated by the elites arguing against full disclosure of their interconnections.

I am not arguing that the connections revealed by Canadaland influenced the findings n the Ghomeshi case, but I am arguing that they do call into question our justice system, especially for those who are risking so much to take part in it.  The answer is not, as the lawyers interviewed by Jesse Brown seem to suggest, to engage in self-censorship, but for the legal system to be more judicious in its attempts to avoid any appearance of conflict.  I know that if I were the judge I would want to avoid this myself and I would have not taken the case (but hey, I’m just a part-time blogger).

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