At The Bar: Appeal Court bingo night in Harperland

Whatever can be going on in the Ontario Court of Appeal? The once-stately vessel is listing badly to starboard since Bo’sun Harper and his crew started frigging in the rigging.

Nearly half a year has blown by since Warren Winkler vacated the Chief Justice’s office, skipping down the yellow brick road to a handsomely remunerated career in arbitration.

The avuncular, anti-intellectual hayseed is already banging heads together, settling disputes for parties who dread waiting decades to see their cases make it to a courtroom.

Winkler

Winkler

Meanwhile, the jockeying for Wink’s magisterial digs have gone from spirited, to frenzied, to downright unseemly.

Harperite loathing for the Charter and judges who coast by solely on merit ensured a drastically culled list of hopefuls. Those who need not apply included cream-of-the-court jurists like Stephen Goudge, Paul Rouleau and Eleanore Cronk (hateful Liberals with massive brains); David Doherty (too prickly to play political patty cake); and Robert Sharpe (cursed by fatal flaws – he’s an eastern Canadian, judicial Mensa from academe.).

Karen Weiler? John E. Laskin? Russell Juriansz? Susan Lang? Too long in the tooth and underappreciative of Toryism.

Justice Department apparatchiks do not choose chief justices. Only the PMO itself has the skill to select the right troughers. After all, CJs don’t just put judges on appeal panels, they also cut ribbons and dine with the likes of crackhead Rob Ford and his thuggish siblings.

But we digress.

The starters’ gun fired last summer. Diminutive Gloria Epstein, keen as mustard for the perks of the corner office, sprinted to an early lead. Still wet-behind-the-ears Harper appointee Alexandra Hoy showed early speed, while George Strathy chugged gamely along. The only candidate not already in the Upper Cloister, Ontario Superior Court Judge Frank Marrocco, blasted into contention courtesy of a lifetime of useful connections.

And then…nothing.

Insiders blame a state of paralysis in the highest offices. President Steve’s senior henchthingies, John Baird and Tony Clement, are in a death struggle to replace suddenly-much-loved homunculus Jim Flaherty as gatekeeper of Ontario pork.

Worse still, choosing one of the front-runners would mean pissing off supporters of the other three. What to do? What to do?

Legalists now fear the winner could be a newbie of unquestioned Tory lineage – mean-spirited pindick Peter Lauwers or amiable boy-man Bill Hourigan. Vegas odds, however, favour an unheralded, no-name runner emerging from the back of the pack.

Prepare, as usual, for a surprise.

The rancorous nonsense brings to mind equally scabrous doings when Chief Justice Roy McMurtry, Winkler’s sonorous predecessor, decamped for a life of painting the same rural landscape over and endlessly over.

Lauwers

Lauwers

The vastly popular Dennis O’Connor should have been appointed but was passed over—his punishment for justly crucifying ex-Premier Mike Harris in the Walkerton Inquiry.

The Harper campaign to turn the Court of Appeal into a backwoods mediocrity has been a roaring success.

Legal giants like Arthur Martin, Charlie Dubin and James Brooke are long gone.   Stalwarts such as Gentleman Jim MacPherson, Eileen Gillese, Bob Blair and Marc Rosenberg will soon join a host of colleagues in the stampede for the exits.

Meanwhile, top legalists Ben Zarnett, Neil Finkelstein and “Not the Real” John E. Laskin are among those who have applied for the bench, only to be rejected by PMO Little Shits.

“A tradition of our best, brightest senior barristers ending their careers on the Court of Appeal is over,” sighed one legalist. “This is not court-packing. This is anti-elitism. Confronted by an array of 50 diamonds, Harper has an unerring ability to choose cubic zirconium.”

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