Life Sentence: Stories From Four Decades of Court Reporting

In Christie Blatchford’s book Life Sentence: Stories from four decades of court reporting – or, how I fell out of love with the Canadian justice system, Blatchford critiques the judicial system. Her critique is centred on her personal experiences and on several court cases.

In particular, she recalls an exchange she had with a lawyer, while observing a trial. During their conversation, she accidentally cited the wrong case when he immediately corrected her. Stating that “in those few minutes was illustrated so much that is enraging about the broader justice system: Its collective overweening self-satisfaction; its increasing deference to the victim and the daily broadening of who qualifies for that status… and its disdain for anyone not legally trained – that is, the general public and the public’s profoundly flawed representative, the press.” [Emphasis added.]

Blatchford’s book is a must read for anyone in the justice system, including bureaucrats. Her perspective is provocative and potent. She speaks to issues that have often gone ignored. She notes the secretive process for appointing judges, the interactions between the players in the justice system, and the publicity of it all.

As an outsider, she “got a taste of how ferociously judges and lawyers can turn on one another” and of what slaves they can be to convention. Further adding that “Lawyers rarely utter a critical word for public consumption about one of their own.” In fear that it might come to backfire in a future case or in a future job. As many lawyers have aspirations to be judges too.

Blatchford highlights that there are abut 700 judges and justices of the peace in Ontario. Only a small number of the 200,000 criminal cases heard each year are covered by the press. And of those, only a few are covered by reporters that have expertise in the court system. “There is only a tiny crew of journalists who actually know any of the judges or JPs first-hand. So going to a lawyer for anything … about a judge is like asking a parent for a reference of their kid.”

Ultimately, I see her book as an invitation to question the justice system from another perspective.

 

(This is not a sponsored post. Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)

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