Mr. Justice Joel Groves is a respected and well-liked member of Vancouver’s British Columbia Supreme Court. He is unceasingly polite (and some judges are not), but more importantly he writes well-reasoned and timely judgments, even though they have not all been supportive of my clients’ positions.
In the area of family law, he is considered by many in the bar to be a highly favourable draw, since he understands the difficulties litigants encounter in this emotional minefield. It is not surprising, however, since as a lawyer he practiced family law.
Yesterday’s criticism of Justice Groves by the Court of Appeal came as a shock to many of us who practice in the courts. His offence was characterized as “plagiarism” by two learned Appeal Court Justices. What he did was what judges have done from time immemorial. He used extensive excerpts from the written closing argument provided to him by counsel.
As young lawyers, we are taught (even by judges) to prepare written argument in such a way that judges will adopt our written submissions in their Reasons for Judgement. This is considered the goal of effective written advocacy.
To harshly condemn a fine judge for doing what judges often do, is a disgrace. The Appeal Judges suggest Justice Groves ought to have footnoted the excerpts indicating they were taken from counsel’s written submissions.
I have never seen a Judge attribute paragraphs of his judgment to the lawyers that appeared before him.
The Appeal Court leaned heavily on the fact that a large part of Justice Groves’ Reasons came from counsel’s written argument. It appears if judges “crib” a few portions, that’s alright, but Judge Groves apparently crossed some line, only known to the Court of Appeal.
Thankfully, one of the three Appeal Justices refused to impugn Judge Groves’ integrity and recognized that to do so on these facts would call into disrepute our very administration of justice.
Of course, no judge will speak out to defend Justice Groves, so lawyers must.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang