Press Progress recently asked why lawyers and party donors prominently featured in Justice Minister Peter MacKay’s 2012 wedding photos wound up being appointed as judges. MacKay’s best man Josh Arnold, red-arrowed here, was appointed to the bench the year after this photo and his wife Cindy Cormier the year after that. Another appointment is a friend of MacKay’s dad.
In fact six of the nine judges appointed to Nova Scotia courts since October 2013 have personal, professional or political connections to MacKay.
CBC picked up the story and Press Progress issued two updates:
UPDATE #1: The CBC wrote a story about this PressProgress report and asked MacKay’s office about the judicial appointments. A MacKay spokesperson said: “In the case of lawyers applying to be judges, committees assess them, provide comments, and also recommend them or not for appointment. The minister of justice only appoints those recommended by such committees.”
UPDATE #2: Responding to questions about MacKay’s judicial appointments … Secretary to the Minister of Justice Bob Dechert rejected NDP Justice Critic François Boivin’s characterization of the appointments as “patronage” that “undermines the credibility of justice,” stating that these “eminently qualified individuals” were “vetted by the judicial advisory council” and that it’s “upon their recommendations that all appointments are made.”
MacKay himself has said it: “All appointments to the Federal judiciary are made on the recommendation of the 17 Judicial Advisory Committees across the country.”
So backing up a step, who appoints the members of these 17 judicial advisory committees?
Turns out it’s Peter MacKay! As JustMin, he gets to pick over half of them on each committee.
Frank Mag had a bit of fun with a few of MacKay’s committee picks last month:
- John Tropak: Manitoba CPC fundraiser and former campaign manager for Shelly Glover; donated $5,000 to CPC
- Ken Lee: Manitoba PC leadership election committee chair and fundraiser
- Marni Larkin: top Conservative strategist for Manitoba PC provincial campaign, served on the party’s national council, advisor to local Manitoba riding races, CPC donor on the CBC’s board of directors and, um, motivational speaker at *** Marni’s Magic ***
- Gordon MacFarlane : Progressive Conservative Party of Prince Edward Island’s Leadership Convention Committee spokesman
- Kerri A. Carpenter: 2009 Conservative nominee for Cardigan PEI riding
- Catherine H. Zingg: lawyer at Flaherty Dow Elliott & McCarthy; co-wrote a book with The Honourable James M. Flaherty
- And in a law article from last fall: How do we get more diversity on the bench when there’s no transparency in the appointments process? Stephen Lautens notes the Facebook page of one maritime appointments committee member shows the friend in her first slot is Peter MacKay’s mom, while another “regularly posts pro-Harper government/anti-Justin Trudeau tweets on his Twitter account”.
But it does suggest our Justice Minister is quietly building up his own personal patronage circle of Con-friendly “activist judges” — which doesn’t do much to bolster his warrants! judges! independent judiciary! argument against possible Bill C-51 abuses.
h/t Antonia Z for Frank Mag link