Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies


In the fall of 2005, Mr. Justice James MacPherson of the Ontario Court of Appeal began his visiting term at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Law. During his visit, Justice MacPherson spoke with two students about several issues that have engaged him during his career as a lawyer, academic and judge. The conversation raised a number of questions about Canada’s changing legal landscape, and how the judiciary has attempted to balance the role of legal principle and judicial imagination in law-making. How, for example, has the public’s sceptical perception of our evolving justice system subjected judges to a higher degree of scrutiny? The result has often been an apparent trade-off between principle and perception. What are the new dilemmas in our administration of justice? More than ever before, an applicant’s right to a principled and fair hearing has been compromised by systemic problems preventing access to the courts. Consequently, courts are being pressed to be more imaginative. To what extent, then, should judges articulate the intuitive (and sometimes personal) premise that often lies at the heart of their judgement? The weight of all these issues has placed judges in a position to re-consider their role in the justice system, and how they can balance principle and imagination to better adapt to the needs of society. Justice MacPherson brings his unique perspective to these issues from his vast experience in the legal system. He was counsel for the Government of Saskatchewan in many early landmark constitutional decisions, he served as an officer in the Dickson Court, and was later involved as a judge in several high profile decisions, such as the recent Ontario same-sex marriage appeal, Halpern. v. Canada. A graduate of Dalhousie Law School in 1976, Justice MacPherson has had a remarkable legal career. He began as a law professor at the University of Victoria, spent time as Director of the Constitutional Branch of Saskatchewan, and later was Executive Legal Officer of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was the Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School until his appointment as a judge of the Ontario Superior Court, and later the Ontario Court of Appeal.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.