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Monday, August 17, 2009

In Canada, the Chief Justice Is a Woman
While the US gets set to put only its third woman on the Supreme Court, Canada begins its tenth year with a woman, Beverley McLachlin, as the chief of its highest court. Indeed, McLachlin is one of seven women who have been appointed to Canada's Supreme Court, four of whom are presently sitting on that nine-judge bench. That's a balance that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and others dreamed would long ago have taken place in the United States (see the New York Times interview with Ginsburg on this subject here).

Of course, Americans would probably bristle at the process Canadians use to appoint their justices. Their Supreme Court, like ours, is composed of eight Puisne (junior) Justices and a chief. But there is no legislative body or provincial input on the nominations to the Court. Instead, recommendations are made by a committee of the cabinet, whose wishes are delivered to the Canadian Governor General (the queen's viceroy) in consultation with the prime minister. Three of the nine justices must, by law, be from Quebec which is both a practical and political accomodation: in addition to having separatist urges, Quebec follows a civil law system while the rest of the country follows the common law approach used in England and the United States.

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