The hypersensitive skin of judges | The Journal of Montreal

The electoral campaign for the « legislative » of October 3 has obscured a thorny debate in the judiciary.

At the beginning of September, several leading magistrates, on the occasion of their return to school, expressed concern about the criticisms to which their profession had recently been subjected.

Chief Justice of the Superior Court, Marie-Anne Paquette defended « personal attacks against judges » on the networks. In his eyes, « every unjustified accusation aimed at discrediting a judge […] fundamentally harms our legal society”.

As if an elected official argued that any unjustified criticism of a deputy undermines democracy, constitutionalist Patrick Taillon was surprised at my microphone on QUB radio on September 19.

By the way, who will define what is a “wrongful accusation”?

And what about freedom of expression?

In the maelstrom of hypermodern communications, everyone is subject to often ruthless, sometimes unfair criticism. The judges seem to find out.

Of course, no one deserves to be threatened as was the magistrate who gave a sentence deemed too lenient in the Simon Houle case. But we must distinguish criticism and threat.

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Taillon also underlined the words of Claudie Bélanger, Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec: “Criticism must not encourage judges to render decisions that will arouse the least controversy”.

Influenced, justice? However, retorted Taillon, it is precisely to avoid this phenomenon that our judges are entitled to a lifetime appointment with extraordinary financial security.

The President of the Conference of Superior Court Judges of Quebec, Lukasz Granosik, joined, in The duty (September 9), at the concert of denunciations.

He was against cases where « the comment turns into a personal attack, drawing its justifications from the judges’ past political orientations […]to move from criticism to pure and simple denigration”.


Historian Frédéric Bastien was not named, but he felt targeted. In our pages in August, he pointed out that Judge Chantal Corriveau, of the Superior Court, having suspended part of Law 96 on the French language, was a « former activist of the no camp in 1995 ».

For Bastien, it was relevant to highlight this anti-nationalist past. Yesterday, he even filed a complaint with the Judicial Council against Granosik, because according to him, the judge “failed in his duty of reserve” by slaying him in the public square.

This is unlikely to lead to any blame. It has at least one merit: allowing us to criticize the idyllic vision of the judge, defended by Granosik.

The latter gives the impression, illustrated Taillon to my microphone, that the judge is like “the priest reporting the word of God”. According to him, this is not the case. The interpretation of laws is not a strictly “predictable, stable, rigorous” matter, where there would be “no leeway”.

Moreover, one day we should investigate the fact that Ottawa unilaterally appoints the judges of the superior courts. And that for this reason no Quebec nationalist jurist or defender of European-style secularism – even with diplomas – can dream of accessing it.


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