Thursday, November 17, 2005

Appointment delayed

The Globe and Mail covers the effect that an election will have on the Supreme Court selection process:
An advisory committee, now in the process of trimming Mr. Cotler's list of six candidates to three, has not completed its work, so a quick nomination before an election call is very unlikely.

The group was supposed to report back to Mr. Cotler this week with its short list, but they asked for, and were given, an extension of their deadline to Nov. 30...

In theory, Mr. Cotler would have the legal right to name a new judge during the campaign, even before he gets the advice of the committee. However, that would go against established practice, which says major government appointments should not be made during an election.

In any event, officials in the minister's office say that won't happen.
As noted by the article, any delay in naming a 9th member won't have an overly harmful effect on the Supreme Court, as it's functioned with less than a full complement of judges many times before. But even if the court itself will get along just fine, it'll be interesting to see how the lack of a newly-appointed justice will affect the campaign itself.

It seems all too likely that the vacancy, combined with the example set by recent U.S. elections, will lead to campaigning based on arguments about who deserves to be appointed to the bench (if in general rather than specific terms). And that's all the more so with Vic Toews still chirping about including public testimony as part of future confirmation processes.

It'll be a shame if the process is brought to a halt without an appointment...and there'll be plenty of reason to argue about who's responsible if that happens. (Hint: there'd be ample opportunity to consider the committee's findings between November 30 and early January.) But the last thing the Canadian political system needs is to follow the U.S. in tying party policy to judicial appointments. And it may be easy to tell which parties are concerned with keeping the judiciary above the political fray based on how they handle the vacancy in their campaigns.

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