The Qualities Required of a Judge

The judge is “the pillar of our entire justice system,” the Supreme Court of Canada has said, and the public has a right to demand “virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function.” Judges must strive for the highest standards of integrity in both their professional and personal lives. They should be knowledgeable about the law, willing to undertake in-depth legal research, and able to write decisions that are clear and cogent. Their judgment should be sound and they should be able to make informed decisions that will stand up to close scrutiny. Judges should be fair and open-minded, and should appear to be fair and open-minded. They should be good listeners but should be able, when required, to ask questions that get to the heart of the issue before the court. They should be courteous in the courtroom but firm when it is necessary to rein in a rambling lawyer, a disrespectful litigant or an unruly spectator.

Judges come to the bench after making a significant contribution to the legal profession and their communities. Many have been active in law societies and have done volunteer and charitable work. Others have been active in politics or won elected office. Judges who have served on a lower court are sometimes promoted to a higher court, such as a provincial court of appeal or the Supreme Court of Canada.