Sorting Appellate Judgments by Judge

Maybe you too have experienced this frustration. You want to know how many judgments a particular appellate court judge has written. So you turn to your favourite case law search tool and type in the judge’s name, perhaps using the special field designated for that purpose. Unfortunately, the results of your search include all of the cases where that judge was on the panel – not just those cases where the judge actually wrote a judgment. I know there are some articles that gather this kind of statistical data for certain courts at various times, but I was wondering if any Slawyers knew where this information was more readily accessible/searchable. I know there have been some great efforts on Wikipedia in the past, but these now seem out-of-date, and it doesn’t appear that the Supreme Court website, the LexUM judgment database or seem to offer this type of service. Any hints or tips?


  1. I wonder if a search in the CanLII database for “delivered by Binnie J” wouldn’t turn up most of his judgments. It might even be easier if CanLII search recognized “(” as a search term, because “Binnie J. (” would pick up from the “REASONS FOR JUDGMENT” portion with some accuracy.

  2. Melanie Bueckert

    Unfortunately, that type of search would still run into problems with joint judgments, plus it would be dependent on the database service using the exact same format for every decision.

    The best solution would likely be to create a separate field for this type of information (such as “delivered by”), but unfortunately that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. I was hoping that perhaps someone was compiling this information separately from the usual database sources.

  3. You’re right, of course, that a separate field is needed. Until then, the simplest thing might be to inquire directly from the court itself. I suspect that the Registrar of the Supreme Court (if it’s that court you want) keeps that data and might make it available; or, you might see if fellow Slawyer, Michel-Adrien can hunt it up at the court when he returns from his holiday in a week’s time.

  4. Supreme Court decisions appear to have as a convention that the author’s names are in all capital letters before their decisions. In the HTML this is done with a text-transform in a span tag.

    But when I tried searching for exact matches on LEBEL and MAJOR in Canlii, Lexum, Google and Yahoo, I got useless results.

    It is as though they don’t want you to be able to find judgments by author name.

  5. “It is as though they don’t want you to be able to find judgments by author name.”

    Actually, I remember reading in law school that tracking judgments by individual judge was discouraged (or at least considered unprofessional), because doing so supports the idea that judges have identifiable political or philosophical predilections that they regularly deploy. Which we all know is entirely untrue.

    I suppose in the lower courts, such data could be used to game the judiciary somewhat, but in my experience most experienced counsel already know the particular biases of the judges with whom they regularly interact.

  6. Hi all,

    I am an editor with MLB and a reader of Slaw and this is my first post. Although I do not have a complete answer to the problem, I think that the following search string using the MLB search engine should give you most of the judgments rendered by a particular judge:

    label [judge’s name] // see paragraph* or [1] [judges name]

    eg.: label Binnie // see paragraph* or [1] Binnie

    Because of the standard format used in our introductory paragraph, “label [judge’s name] // see paragraph*” will pick up any judgments by Binnie, including joint decisions and decisions where other judges have also rendered opinions. The search string will work in our databases with headnotes and in our free judgment database (RawLaw ).

    However, as I indicated above, the solution is not a complete answer, as unedited (Uned.) cases and cases that are waiting to be edited (TBEd.) do not contain an introductory paragraph. As a result, Uned. and TBEd. cases with a joint opinion or multiple opinions will not be picked up if the judgment of the judge being searched does not commence at paragraph 1 and, in the case of a joint opinion, the judge being search is not the first judge listed at paragraph 1.

  7. And now for my second post … here is a hyperlink for MLB (Maritime Law Book) which I failed to include in my previous post.

  8. Hi again all

    It occurred to me today that I mispoke in my early post when I stated:

    Because of the standard format used in our introductory paragraph, “label [judge’s name] // see paragraph*” will pick up any judgments by Binnie, including joint decisions …

    The search string will not pick up judgments with joint opinons unless the judge being searched is the first judge listed at paragraph 1.

    My apologies.

  9. [Sigh] not to make too much of the point but, in theory, those of us who practice law for a living should be be able to assume that any appellate judge who agrees with a judgment written by another judge on the panel, without expressing any reservations in a concurrence, formally agrees with everythng he or she signed on to, even if he or she would have come to a different conclusion if circumstances permitted.

    So, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether the judge wrote the judgment or merely agreed, or it was a case where the reasons are attributed to the court.

    Actually, we should be able to assume that our appellate judges will remember what they’ve written, and if they’re going to depart from that, be good enough to tell us why.

    In practice? Never mind.