For Madam Justice Susanne Goodman 2017 was not a good year, for that was when Ontario’s Court of Appeal slammed her for neglecting to provide Reasons to the litigants in a criminal trial that she presided over two years earlier. The Appeal Court in R. v. Sliwka 2017 ONCA 426 said:
“The trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice. Nor is this the first time that this trial judge’s failure to provide reasons has required this court to order a new trial. It must be the last time.”
Judge Goodman presided over a 9-day trial where she acquitted Mr. Sliwka, who faced charges for “vicious” sexual and domestic violence, but she failed to provide Reasons for her decision despite many promises to the Crown, who sought to appeal her order, but could not, absent written reasons. Sliwka was convicted of aggravated assault in his second trial, despite his lawyer’s argument that the delay in issuing Reasons rendered the proceedings unfair.
But this was not the first time that Justice Goodman, a former family law lawyer, had been neglectful of her duty to provide reasons for her decisions. She had been reprimanded by the Court of Appeal in 2011 for a similar fault.
The Judicial Council’s report identified a medical reason for Judge Goodman’s behaviour and her remorse, saying:
“Key to the decision to close the matter was the fact that Justice Goodman experienced a medical condition, now resolved, which was at the root of her difficulties. Justice Goodman and her Chief Justice have set out a number of specific and comprehensive measures to ensure that she discharges all aspects of her judicial responsibilities in a timely manner.
Justice Goodman expressed deep regret about the impact of her actions on litigants who appeared before her and to public confidence generally. She has undertaken to ensure that the situation never repeats itself.”
If the judge was incapable of performing her duties because of medical issues, the closure of this case is the proper outcome. Time will tell if Justice Goodman is up to the demands of her job.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang