Judges debate cultural bias in rulings
By Robert Todd
While it’s impossible for them to come to the bench without a distinct view of the world, a panel of judges maintained recently that it’s their duty to keep cultural biases in check when deciding a case.
“Judges who are tough Crown attorneys become judges who are sympathetic to the defence,” said Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Russell Juriansz. “Defence counsel become really tough law-and-order judges.
How somebody exercises their role depends on them as an individual and not on any group that they can be put into.”
The comments came as Ontario judges weighed in during a legal conference last week on controversial remarks by newly appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor in 2001 when she was on the appeals court. The panel was part of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers’ third annual conference on Nov. 7 at the University of Toronto.
“Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences . . . our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging,” Sotomayor, the U.S. top court’s first Hispanic judge, told an audience at the University of California Berkeley School of Law.
The quote seemed to challenge the notion, famously claimed by former U.S. Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, that a wise old man and wise old woman would reach the same decision when faced with an identical set of facts.
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