The Honourable Gregory A. Cann’s Questionnaire
Under the new judicial application process introduced by the Minister of Justice on October 20, 2016, any interested and qualified Canadian lawyer or judge may apply for federal judicial appointment by completing a questionnaire. The questionnaires are then used by the Judicial Advisory Committees across Canada to review candidates and submit a list of “highly recommended” and “recommended” candidates for consideration by the Minister of Justice. Candidates are advised that parts of their questionnaire may be made available to the public, with their consent, should they be appointed to the bench. The information is published as it was submitted by the candidates at the time they applied, subject to editing where necessary for privacy reasons.
Below are Parts 5, 6, 7, and 11 of the questionnaire completed by the Honourable Gregory A. Cann.
Questionnaire for Judicial Appointment
Part 5 – Language
Please note that in addition to the answers to the questions set out below, you may be assessed as to your level of language proficiency.
Without further training, are you able to read and understand court materials in:
- English: Yes
- French: No
Without further training, are you able to discuss legal matters with your colleagues in:
- English: Yes
- French: No
Without further training, are you able to converse with counsel in court in:
- English: Yes
- French: No
Without further training, are you able to understand oral submission in court in:
- English: Yes
- French: No
Part 6 – Education
Name of Institutions, Years Attended, Degree/Diploma and Year Obtained:
- Acadia University, 1980-83, Bachelor of Arts (major in History), 1983
- Dalhousie University, 1983-85, Master of Arts – not completed
- Dalhousie University, 1985-88, Bachelor of Laws, 1988
Throughout my career, I have taken continuing education courses, too numerous to list. In attending such programs, my focus has been on insurance law, personal injury, dispute resolution, litigation advocacy, estates law, practice management, and computer-assisted legal research.
Honours and Awards:
- Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 2007
Part 7 – Professional and Employment History
Please include a chronology of work experience, starting with the most recent and showing employers’ names and dates of employment. For legal work, indicate areas of work or specialization with years and, if applicable, indicate if they have changed.
Legal Work Experience:
- 1990-2017, Associate (1990-97) Partner (1997-2017) at Cox & Palmer (and its predecessor firms), general litigation, then primarily insurance and defence-side personal injury litigation after 1992
- 1988-1990, Articled Clerk, then Prosecution Counsel, at Department of Justice Canada, primarily in the field of narcotics prosecutions following bar admission
Non-Legal Work Experience:
Various part-time and summer jobs during high school and university.
Other Professional Experience:
List all bar associations, legal or judicial-related committees of which you are or have been a member, and give the titles and dates of any offices which you have held in such groups.
- Canadian Bar Association, PEI Branch President (2007-2008), Member of Executive Committee (2004-2008)
- Canadian Bar Association, National Board of Directors (2007-2008)
- Law Society of PEI, Member of Council (1997-1999)
- Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of PEI and PEI Court of Appeal (non-voting member, 2005-2016, voting member, 2016-present)
- Liability Insurance Committee (CLIA) of the Law Society of PEI (member, 2010-2016; Chair, 2016-present)
- Continuing Legal Education Committee of the CBA (PEI Branch) then jointly of CBA/Law Society of Prince Edward Island (Chair 2005-2012)
- Class Action Legislation Committee of Law Society of PEI, (Chair, 2015-present)
- Bench and Bar Committee, Law Society of PEI appointed member
- Unauthorized Practice Committee of the Law Society of PEI, member
- Articling and Admissions Committee of the Law Society of PEI
- Law Society of Prince Edward Island, member since 1991
- Canadian Bar Association, member since 1991
Pro Bono Activities:
- Legal advice on numerous issues to the Canadian Mental Health Association between 1990 and 2000
- Volunteer presentations on numerous topics to the Insurance Institute of Prince Edward Island
- Defence of accused charged with indictable offence through preliminary inquiry and trial
- Representation of a Canadian Peacekeeper in dealing with issue related to service overseas
Teaching and Continuing Education:
List all legal or judicial educational organizations and activities you have been involved with (e.g. teaching course at a law faculty, bar association, National Judicial Institute, or the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice).
- Instructor, Bar Admission Course (Supreme Court Practice), 2009-2012
- Presenter on various topics related to civil litigation and insurance at Law Society of Prince Edward Island CLE events
- Instructor and presenter at client industry education seminars since 2000
- Multiple in-house presentations to law students and associates at my firm on insurance law and time management
Community and Civic Activities:
List all organizations of which you are a member and any offices held with dates.
- Fitzroy Center, Board of Directors (1991-1995 approx.)
- Canadian Mental Health Association, PEI Branch (Board of Directors 1995-1999, President 1998-99)
- Canadian Mental Health Association (National Board of Directors 1997-1998)
- West Royalty Minor Baseball Association (Board of Directors 2006-2008 approx.), Coach of and volunteer with various minor baseball teams (1998-2012)
Part 11 – The Role of the Judiciary in Canada’s Legal System
The Government of Canada seeks to appoint judges with a deep understanding of the judicial role in Canada. In order to provide a more complete basis for evaluation, candidates are asked to offer their insight into broader issues concerning the judiciary and Canada’s legal system. For each of the following questions, please provide answers of between 750 and 1000 words.
1. What would you regard as your most significant contribution to the law and the pursuit of justice in Canada?
I consider this to be a two-part question, involving separate but closely related values and goals. Accordingly, I will answer them separately.
With respect to my most significant contribution to the law, I believe it has taken the form of providing assistance to the court as an advocate and as a member of the civil procedure Rules Committee of Prince Edward Island. As an advocate, my submissions to the court have helped shape the law, primarily in the areas of tort liability and civil procedure. To a lesser extent, I have provided assistance to the court in the form of submissions in the areas of criminal law and the Constitution. As a member of the Rules Committee for over a decade, I have been an active contributor to the development of the law of civil procedure in this province. Since the Rules Committee is legislative in nature, my contribution to development of the law through membership has been in the form of input into legislative provisions governing the manner in which disputes are resolved by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal.
What I consider to be my most important contribution to the pursuit of justice is of a more granular nature. It is something done by lawyers across Canada every day. I did not do it particularly well, nor was the event celebrated in any way. But, in my view, it was no less important for these unremarkable qualities.
When I had been practising law for less than five years, I was retained to defend a person who had been charged with a particularly serious offense. He was the object of outrage in his community. His family was of very modest means and he could not afford to pay for his defense. Due to the nature of the allegations, police and prosecution authorities were understandably determined to seek a conviction and substantial incarceration.
As I became involved in representing him, I grew convinced that my client had not committed the acts claimed by the alleged victim. It is difficult to describe the pressure that a young lawyer feels in defending a client against serious charges when possessed with knowledge that he is innocent, and that the lawyer's representation is one of the most important things standing between the individual and the possibility of significant deprivation of freedom. I worked very hard on the client's behalf, both as an investigator of the circumstances surrounding the alleged offence and as an advocate in the courtroom. I was able to secure an acquittal for the client following a preliminary inquiry and trial.
As mentioned, I do not think my representation of my client's case was particularly skillful. As also mentioned, representation of an innocent individual charged with a serious offence is something which occurs every day in Canadian courtrooms. It is not something necessarily worthy of media or public attention. A young lawyer feeling the pressure of a client's need for his help is not a hero. He is just doing his job. I believe that the significance of my contribution to the pursuit of justice in that case was in its consequence for the client.
The client's acquittal was of inestimable importance to him. Had he been convicted of an offence which he did not commit, he would have faced a significant period of incarceration. Instead of going to jail, he was able to get on with the rest of his life without the burden of confinement or its potentially lifelong consequences. He was able to enjoy the benefits of the Canadian justice system which, despite all of its faults, works most of the time. In my opinion, the outcome of that individual's case was every bit as important as landmark decisions which affect the rights of millions of people. To fulfill their crucial role in our society, our courts must effectively serve society at the level of both the individual litigant and society at large. Individual rights and liberties must be balanced with societal interests, but not subsumed by them. This statement is trite in its expression, but the values underlying it are vulnerable to obscurity in practice. Having played an important, if not particularly skillful, role in the outcome of my client's case, I believe I made an important contribution to the pursuit of justice. Recalling the events described has been a regular reminder to me that the pursuit of justice is not just a "big picture" proposition. It is a case-by-case quest that demands a great deal of lawyers and judges.
2. How has your experience provided you with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives?
It is very difficult to precisely identify the specific experiences which have led to the formation of my views about our society. Life is busy for me, as it is for most of us. We do not often get the chance to reflect on such questions. Clients' crises or a daughter's need for a hot meal after her gymnastics class get in the way. We are mostly too busy experiencing life's experiences to consider their effect on how we see the world. And yet those experiences are undoubtedly at work, changing and forming our views. This is especially true for me when I attempt to describe the experiences which have provided me with insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians. Those experiences include, for me, growing up in a multi-linguistic and multi-cultural province (Quebec); high school in a small university town in proximity to some of the country's most impoverished and uneducated inhabitants; law school; and practising law as a prosecutor in a racially diverse city in the throes of the Donald Marshall inquiry. Travel has also been a wonderful teacher. Finally, just living through eras when, regrettably, it has been widely considered acceptable to make racist remarks, espouse sexist views, and treat members of the LGBTQ2 community with open hostility, has taught me the pernicious effects of intolerance and ignorance.
Perhaps of greater importance than how my experiences have provided me with insights is the question of what insights I have gained. Since my application for a judicial appointment is being considered, presumably how I see issues related to diversity is of greater significance than the mechanics of the formation of those views, especially since I would be at a loss to provide chapter and verse of the latter.
What I have learned is that a society is simply better when it is both diverse and inclusive. A culture is enriched by difference. When two or more ethnic traditions, languages, races, or expressions of gender/identity come together, the whole created is much greater than the sum of the parts. The inevitable product of inclusive diversity is increased understanding. In addition to building a society's strength, it fosters resiliency by reducing conflict. My own view is that recent events are demonstrating that inclusive diversity is not just the best way to ensure the survival of our Canadian society, it is the only way.
I have also learned that diversity and inclusion are not destinations. Rather, they are journeys. We are better served by accepting that our society will never achieve perfection in these pursuits. Doing so will make us more vigilant and ready to combat discrimination. I believe that, as humans, we are hard-wired to discriminate. The best we can ever do is to increase our awareness and resist the tendency. Our society, as a product of our collective will and efforts, does not need to suffer the same fate. We can make it one which celebrates diversity and condemns discrimination. If this is to be achieved, our institutions must lead the way. Our courts must be leaders in this endeavour. Courtrooms should be places where litigants can be confident that their gender, race, ethnic heritage, standard of living and sexual preference are not impediments to enforcement of their legal rights. Fostering this confidence is not just a matter of judicial decision-making. It has to be reflected in the demeanour of judges, lawyers and court personnel from the opening of court, through the fact-finding process, presentation and hearing of arguments and, ultimately, the court's disposition.
Finally, I have learned that discrimination is a matter of effect which is not restricted to instances of intention. Actions, policies and words may be discriminatory in effect, even if intention is absent. For our society to embrace diversity successfully and enjoy its benefits, our institutions must be sensitive to this fact and act accordingly. Our courts must be leaders by example, both in their judgments and the manner in which their processes are conducted. We have made progress as a society in recognizing the dangers posed by unconscious bias, and in identifying the elimination of laws with discriminatory effect as being a distinct challenge. Growing awareness in our legislatures and amongst members of the judiciary is moving us in the right direction. However, we have a long way to go. I think that treating diversity as a journey, rather than a destination, will help.
3. Describe the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy.
In my view, the appropriate role of a judge in a constitutional democracy is multi-functional, but everything a judge does fulfills a central purpose. That purpose is to ensure, through her or his decisions, that those who come to court are subject to the rule of law. The idea that neither individuals nor governments in Canada (a constitutional democracy) are above the law is fundamental to maintaining the rights and freedoms that we so often take for granted. As demonstrated by events in other parts of the world, breakdown in the rule of law is one of the many ugly features of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. Loss of individual rights – including the vote – usually follows.
Because the rule of law is so important to a functioning democracy, and because the role of judges is so central to protecting it, two features of the judiciary stand out for me. The first is independence and the second is transparency.
A judge cannot ensure that individuals and governments are subject to law if he or she is beholden to them in any way. A judge must be free of any influence which might tend to erode the ability to impose the rule of law on governments or powerful individual interests. Such improper influences can take many forms, and measures taken to remove them are extensive, but also a work in progress. One particularly challenging task for judges is to put aside, on an ongoing basis, a sense of indebtedness to former clients, employers, friends and political contacts who may have helped them in business or even (until now) with being appointed. A number of rules and conventions have been instituted over time to limit the potential for such influences. Limits on the extent to which judges may hear cases involving parties to whom they are – or were, prior to being appointed – closely connected, are important for ensuring independent decisions. The new appointment process is a further important step in minimizing inappropriate influence.
Limiting the improper effects of the judge's life before the bench is crucial on an individual level. Systemic threats to judicial independence are also a matter for careful and ongoing vigilance. The relationship of the judicial branch with the rest of government must also be carefully monitored. The judiciary must have some contact and interaction with both federal and provincial governments if our justice system is to function at all. Courts and courthouses must be funded and staffed. Resources must be made available for them to do their jobs. Therefore, a relationship with government may be seen as necessary to the preservation of the rule of law. On the other hand, those points of contact must not be allowed to influence court process or decision-making in a way which subverts it. Finding and ensuring the right balance of effectiveness and distance is a matter of awareness and regular monitoring.
Transparency is also crucial. While it is fundamental to constitutional democracy that everyone is subject to the law, I believe that it is just as important that Canadians see that this is so. Democracies require the consent of the governed. The only meaningful way to ensure this consent is informed public confidence in the various governmental institutions. This includes the justice system. The rule of law must be made manifest to the public through court decisions that are readily available to, and understandable by, as large a sector of the population as is possible, given available means of dissemination and the sometimes complex application of legal principles. Except in very rare situations, public hearings and public access to the courts is an integral part of building and maintaining confidence in our justice system. This way, when courts issue decisions which demonstrate supremacy of the rule of law, Canadians need to be made aware of those judgments.
Judges must play an important role in fostering the transparency of the justice system. Ensuring that hearings are held in plain view and that members of the public are made to feel welcome as participants and spectators in Canada's court processes helps. Judges and lawyers need to bear in mind that they are only stewards of a justice system owned by the public. Too often the courts are seen as the exclusive dominion of the bench and bar, to which members of the public are mere invitees. Judges and lawyers may be charged with the effective operation of the justice system, but they must never lose sight of the fact that they hold it in trust for the benefit of everyone. When I taught the Supreme Court Practice component of the bar course, my concluding comments to future lawyers always included a reminder that PEI's court system did not belong to lawyers, but to the people on the other side of the classroom door. A judge needs to approach her or his role the same way. Every member of the public is therefore entitled to be treated with dignity and respect by judges.
Confidence through transparency is also achieved through decisions and rulings which are carefully reasoned and clearly communicated. Use of plain language, wherever possible, will assist members of the public in understanding judges' decisions. This, in turn, will allow people to see the rule of law as real and tangible.
In essence, the role of judges is to maintain the rule of law. They hear and consider evidence, find facts, and apply both the laws made by elected officials (legislation) and the common law (legal rules developed by judges through their decisions). Legislation and common law are subject to Canada's constitution, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This arrangement balances the powers of governments and courts and sets important limits on the extent to which they can interfere with individual freedoms, as well as establishing what people may expect from their government as Canadians. As part of this balance, judges have the responsibility of interpreting legislation, common law and the Constitution as the latter evolve with the rest of Canadian society.
4. Who is the audience for decisions rendered by the court(s) to which you are applying?
Decisions of a court may impact various stakeholders differently. Of course, the primary audience for the decisions of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island is the parties to the proceeding in which the judgment is rendered. However, decisions may be of equal or even greater importance to individuals or entities who are not parties. This may be especially so when the judgment requires a legal interpretation.
The decisions of courts require findings of fact, rulings on what the law is and how legal principles apply to the facts found. Frequently, the applicable legal rules governing the outcome of the case will be well established, and the focus of the dispute between the parties will be on what events transpired or how the settled law applies to those facts. In most of these situations, the reach of the court's decision will not go much beyond the parties to the proceeding themselves, and perhaps will include others indirectly affected by the practical consequences of the judgment. For example, a sentence of incarceration may be within a range commonly imposed for similar offences and similarly situated offenders, and may be of little importance to others besides the accused, the victim and perhaps their respective families. This is not to understate its meaning to those immediately concerned. The decision may be one of the most impactful events of their lives. Accordingly, and where possible, the court’s decision should be accessible to those to whom it applies. It is important for litigants to be able to understand how the court has reached its decision. The evidence considered, especially the resolution of conflicting evidence and resulting findings of fact, should be described in a way that makes clear how the judge has made findings of fact. Next, the specific way that the facts interact with legal principles to create the outcome is necessary to the parties' confidence that they have received a fair hearing. To be sure, one or more of the parties to the proceeding will be disappointed by or will disagree with the decision, but public confidence in our justice system will be maximized if parties have, to the extent possible, an understanding of how the court reached its conclusions.
Some decisions require the court to apply the law in novel fact situations or to describe its application in a way which has not previously occurred. In such instances, the audience potentially becomes much broader. The implications of the judgment may be of importance on a province-wide or even national basis. The Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island is primarily a trial court, but also has appellate jurisdiction for certain matters. Importantly, it has authority to render decisions in matters where the application of the Constitution is involved. Such matters may result in decisions which are of far-reaching and even national importance. In those cases, judges need to be mindful of not just the binding authority of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada, but also the overall fabric of Canadian common law and how their decisions may fit within it. While judges must not hesitate to develop the law where circumstances warrant, respect for binding authority from higher courts and the role of legislators as lawmakers needs to be combined with appreciation for the value of stability and predictability in the law. Islanders and all Canadians need to be able to conduct their personal and business affairs in an environment where they are able to have a reasonable sense of where they stand with the law. They also have the right to expect that Canada's laws will keep pace with societal changes requiring that the rules governing our interaction must evolve.
Whether the court's judgment is of importance only to the parties or has implications which matter to all Canadians, the audience should be able to understand how and why the decision was reached. In my view, providing the public with access to justice includes transparency in the process of judicial decision-making, as well as in the judgments themselves. A strong society is one whose institutions bear regular scrutiny and instill confidence in its members by allowing them to renew their agreement to be bound by the rules that provide its structure. The rule of law and meaningful access to justice are cornerstones of that structure. When Canadians are able to see and understand the way in which the rules which govern their interaction with each other and their governments, our society is enhanced. Courts, as stewards of the system which enforces those rules, are most effective when they earn the respect and confidence of the public they serve.
5. Please describe the personal qualities, professional skills and abilities, and life experience that you believe will equip you for the role of a judge.
The personal qualities I believe will equip me for the role of a judge were taught to me by my parents. We are all, to some degree, products of our families of origin and what we do with those influences as adults. I was very fortunate to be raised by parents who believed strongly in the equality of all people. In retrospect, my parents were probably ahead of their time in their thinking. My siblings and I were the beneficiaries. Along with adopting my parents’ beliefs in the intrinsic value of all people (apparently by osmosis because I have no conscious memory of the process), I also had instilled in me the idea that all people are entitled to my respect and to be treated with dignity. This too has become hard-wired in my thinking and behaviour.
A natural consequence of my belief in universal equality has been the development of a conviction that the same situation can be seen from a number of different perspectives based upon the experiences of the people viewing it. Differing points of view are natural and, I have learned, those differences need to be respected and valued. Often, finding solutions to problems requires that different – but equally valid – viewpoints be taken into account. Thanks to my upbringing and the thoughtful instruction of my parents, this outlook is part of my makeup.
As members of the generation that were children during the Great Depression and came of age during the Second World War, my parents taught me the value of hard work, perseverance and the confidence that much can be accomplished by both. My journey through school, university and a busy law practice have reinforced those beliefs. Intellectual abilities are of unquestioned value but they are of very limited use without the willingness to work and see an endeavour through to completion. Most of the lawyers I know understand and accept this reality. Those who do not typically don't last long in the profession.
My whole family taught me the importance of fairness and honesty. My parents were clear that each of my siblings and I were loved equally. Our achievements were celebrated, and our misdeeds punished, with an underlying sense of who we were as individuals, but always with an even hand. We were taught that cheating undermined the value of anything achieved as a result, and that lying made us less trustworthy. Our parents were consistent in teaching us these lessons, and lived themselves by the same set of rules. My siblings are considerably older than me (although perhaps they would not appreciate me saying so now) and instilled the same code of conduct in me that my parents had drummed into them. In my family, there was nowhere to hide from the expectation of honesty and fair play.
Perhaps most importantly, my children have taught me to be a good listener. I now generally prefer to listen before I speak. It seems to me that I learn a great deal more when my mouth is closed than open. Public confidence in the justice system requires that litigants genuinely believe they have been heard. They may not always like a court's ruling but, in my experience representing clients in litigation, they are far more likely to accept an outcome if they perceive that their points of view have been heard and understood.
My children have also taught me to be patient. As a parent, I learned that people, especially vulnerable ones, often need to be given time to process their environment, to do the right thing or to express themselves. They have rewarded the patience that my wife and I have shown them with their trust and confidence. I cannot help believing that judges who display patience with lawyers and litigants will reap similar benefits on behalf of our justice system. That has certainly been my experience as a lawyer.
Many of the professional skills I have gained are common to most lawyers of my years of experience. My work serving clients in the insurance industry has allowed me to develop strong skills in analysis and legal reasoning, questioning witnesses, understanding technical and scientific evidence, and evaluation of testimony. In my early years of practice, I became familiar with criminal procedure and the law of evidence while working as both a prosecutor and as a criminal defence lawyer. This work also gave me a thorough grounding in constitutional law, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While trials are a relative rarity for a civil litigation lawyer (the role in which I have spent the bulk of my career), I have appeared as counsel on a sufficient number of trials, motions and appeals to provide me with a reasonably thorough knowledge of the courts and procedure. This experience has been supplemented with my participation as a member of the Rules Committee of the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island.
6. Given the goal of ensuring that Canadians are able to look at the justices appointed to the bench and see their faces and life experience reflected there, you may, if you choose, provide information about yourself that you feel would assist in this objective.
I was born in Shawinigan, Quebec in 1962. My parents, both of whom are now deceased, were both Maritimers. My father had chosen to obtain a university education upon being discharged from military service following the Second World War, and Quebec offered the best employment opportunities at the time. Our family remained in Quebec until I was twelve years old, but relocated from Shawinigan to Montreal during our time in that province. This period in Quebec's history was very eventful and was marked by both the celebration of Canada's Centennial, political upheaval as Quebec Francophones asserted language rights and cultural distinctions, and tragedy during the FLQ crisis. These events touched the lives of all Quebec residents, including mine. In addition, these events were an early introduction to the realities of being Canadian. These events offered basic lessons not only in national pride, but also in multiculturalism, as well as in the benefits and challenges of diversity. Of course, I was too young to understand the full implications of these events, but I was aware of them at a fundamental level.
In 1974, my mother and I moved to Nova Scotia. My siblings were grown and had left home. Due to illness, my father had lost his employment in Montreal and had begun searching for work in Ontario. My mother, who had been a school teacher before starting a family, returned to the workplace when my father became ill. I moved to Nova Scotia with my mother so that she could upgrade her education and income. Family circumstances dictated that I would not live under the same roof with my father after age twelve. To a very large degree, I was raised by my mother. My welfare depended upon her success in furthering her education and in the workplace. If feminism is defined by the belief in the inherent equality of men and women, I became a feminist at a young age. I remain one.
Despite missing my father, I would describe my upbringing as happy and fortunate. I had the benefit of experiencing life in one of Canada's most cosmopolitan cities and one of its smallest towns. My mother taught in a rural school attended by children of those impoverished families. Her commitment to providing literacy skills taught me the importance of helping those who are less fortunate.
After completing high school, I did a History degree at Acadia University before attending Law School at Dalhousie. I graduated from Dalhousie in 1988 and was fortunate to article and practise with the federal Department of Justice in Halifax. My practice there was as a prosecutor, primarily in the field of narcotics charges. My time with the Department of Justice was a tremendous experience and provided me with valuable training in the courtroom as well as an understanding of the many challenges faced by Canada's criminal justice system.
I met my spouse, also a lawyer, and moved to Charlottetown in late 1990. I began practising with Cox & Palmer's predecessor firm shortly thereafter, where I have remained ever since. After conducting a general litigation practice in the first few years with this firm, I began to specialize in insurance litigation and defense of personal injury lawsuits.
My spouse and I have been blessed with three children who have been the centre of our lives. Combining child care responsibilities with two busy law practices has been a challenging and rewarding experience for both of us. We have somehow managed to remain active and engaged professionally throughout the formative years of our daughter and two sons. I am incredibly fortunate to be a parent and have benefited greatly from everything it has taught me. Although the lessons have been many, two stand out as particularly important for the role of judge. The first is that children, like adults and communities, need structure. We all need the measure of predictability that comes with a set of rules to live by and some organization to our existence. Parenting also taught me that once those structures are established, people need freedom to live their lives within those boundaries. It is the balance of liberty and structure that nurtures healthy, happy children and strong societies like ours.
The other lesson being a parent has taught me in real life was summed up by somebody much wiser than I am who said, "Seek first to understand, then to be understood". In my experience as a dad, resisting the impulse to assume I know what my children are experiencing, thinking and feeling has made me much more helpful to them than the occasions when I have mistakenly jumped to conclusions.
Being a parent and being a lawyer have something else in common. Done well, both are ceaselessly demanding and endlessly rewarding. To the extent that I have had success in either, it has been with sure knowledge that there are no substitutes for hard work and doing one's best and remembering that there is always room to do better.
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