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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Courts - Judges' cut-and-paste opinions under scrutiny in Canada

From a long story by Marty Klinkenberg of the Edmonton Journal reported on Nov. 18th:

The Alberta Court of Appeal has tossed out two related findings by an Edmonton judge because he copied large portions from the lawyers’ arguments, failed to provide meaningful analysis and obscured the reasons for his decisions. * * *

According to the ruling issued by justices Jack Watson, Frans Slatter and Patricia Rowbotham, [Justice Donald Lee of Court of Queen’s Bench] cut and pasted paragraphs from briefs filed by the parties and then had them retyped and designated as his “Reasons for Judgment.”

“Every one of the paragraphs in the reasons was extracted essentially verbatim, from the chambers briefs,” the justices wrote. “There is no independent authorship. Even spelling mistakes in the briefs are faithfully carried forward.”

They said that in one decision, Lee incorporated 74 of 84 paragraphs submitted by both sides, and incorporated all 79 paragraphs submitted by the parties in the other. That, and the absence of an explanation for his rulings, threaten the integrity of the proceedings, the panel wrote in its decision, calling it an “extreme” case of inadequate reasoning. * * *

“The compilation of passages from the chambers’ briefs does not disclose how the judge arrived at his decision,” the panel wrote. “Deciding between competing adversarial positions is at the core of judicial function. This fundamental obligation cannot be discharged without the judge conducting an independent analysis, and articulating it in the appropriate form.

“The decision must be reasonably intelligible to the parties, and provide the basis for meaningful appellate review.”

The Edmonton decision follows on the heels of a case argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court
that asked when and under what circumstances a judge can copy the submissions of a party without attribution. * * *

[A]n appeal court ordered a new trial last year after two out of three judges on a panel ruled that Groves plagiarized 321 out of the 368 paragraphs in his own judgment — copying them almost word for word, without attribution, from the applicant’s written submission.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 20, 2012 02:15 PM
Posted to Courts in general