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Mighty Judgment by Philip Slayton, published in April 2011, follows his provocative and best-selling Lawyers Gone Bad: Money, Sex and Madness in Canada’s Legal Profession. Like Slayton’s earlier book, it is written for anyone interested in an essential Canadian institution. It is full of substance, but easy to read and often humorous.
Mighty Judgment’s subtitle is How the Supreme Court of Canada Runs Your Life. The book describes important issues the Supreme Court decides for individual Canadians and for Canada as a nation, and the surprising and dramatic ways in which it determines our future. A few examples: In the Morgentaler case (1988), the court struck down laws restricting abortion, leaving Canada as the only western country without any abortion laws. In the Same Sex Marriage Reference (2004), it decided that gays and lesbians can marry. In the Secession Reference (1998), it laid down the conditions under which Quebec could secede from Canada. In the Patrick case (2009), the court decided the right of privacy does not stop the police from rifling through garbage, even though Justice Binnie noted “residential waste includes an enormous amount of personal information about what is going on in our homes, including a lot of DNA on household tissues, highly personal records (e.g., love letters, overdue bills and tax returns) and hidden vices (pill bottles, syringes, sexual paraphernalia, etc.). …” And in January 2010 the court administered a tongue-lashing to the federal government over its treatment of Omar Khadr, and stopped a hair’s breadth short of demanding that Canada seek his repatriation from Guantanamo Bay.
Mighty Judgment argues that the Supreme Court of Canada is a political institution, and that judges are politicians. Decisions are influenced by judges’ backgrounds, personalities and characters; the book describes each Supreme Court judge’s personal history, character and personality, how they work and work together. But judges cannot be voted out of office. Slayton discusses reforms that are needed, particularly in the way judges are chosen, once we recognize that the court decides policy and in many ways governs Canada.
Mighty Judgment is the only Canadian book that discusses the Supreme Court in an interesting way accessible to most people. It follows in the U.S. tradition of The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, published in 1979 and still in print, and Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2008).
Click here to see pictures of the Mighty Judgment launch party.
REVIEWS, COMMENTS, PRESS, INTERVIEWS
“…interesting and readable… Slayton writes well — missing nothing of the substance by explaining nuanced judgments clearly and concisely. Mighty Judgment makes good reading for any lawyer and any other Canadian interested in this most mysterious branch of government.”
- Winnipeg Free Press
“…a colourful sketch of the court’s hidden inner workings… a useful primer on the wrongly neglected subject of our top court, its immense power and the need for reform.”
- The Globe and Mail
“…it is written in a breezy tone accessible to both lawyers and laymen alike, and provides an interesting overview of the history of the Supreme Court, thoughtful analysis of recent decisions on compelling and controversial issues and colourful quotes gleaned from interviews with current and former Supremes and their groupies in academia. …a treasure trove of historical anecdotes, colourful quotes and insightful commentary.”
- The Lawyers Weekly
“…he makes a strong argument that politicians, the news media, and Canadians in general don’t pay enough attention to the men and women who sit on the Supreme Court… he succeeds in making his book readable and relatable, which is especially impressive considering the volume of information he conveys.”
- Quill & Quire
“…provocative, breezily written mixture of anecdotes, case comments, and personal reflections… Slayton’s work, both on the legal profession and now the Supreme Court, has been a catalyst for important conversations about the place of law in a democracy, both within and outside legal circles…”
- Lorne Sossin, Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School
“Giving an insider’s look at how the court operates, he mixes telling detail with enlivening anecdote. …That the court makes law will come as no surprise to serious scholars who have studied the court’s work. But the biggest contribution of Mighty Judgment is bringing this undisputed fact compellingly to readers’ consciousness. …Slayton has done a great service in bringing the personalities and procedures of CAnada’s supreme court into clear view for a wide readership.”
- Literary Review of Canada
“…Philip Slayton has written a book that both educates and enlightens… ‘Mighty Judgment’ would not be as interesting as it is without Slayton’s talent for the written word…”
“Recommended. Enjoyably and informatively reveals the inner workings of the Supreme Court of Canada. …Slayton writes in a popular and engaging style.”
- Discerning Reader
Partisan judges, how the Supreme Court runs our lives – and why it should be an election issue: Philip Slayton in conversation with Luiza Ch. Savage
Interview with Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC’s The Current
Interview on BNN’s Squeezeplay
Interview on Sun News Network
Interview with CTV.ca
CBC Radio Noon (Montreal) interview
CBC allinaweekend interview
Interview on Radio Canada International “The Link”
Interview with Vancouver’s RoadKill Radio
Philip interviewed by Fanny Kiefer
Selecting SCC judges: An election issue
Are judges politicians in robes?
Philip talks about his new book, Mighty Judgment