Slaw’s Canadian Case Commentary

I’ve set up a new site to collect commentary on judicial opinions: commentary.slaw.ca

At the moment — and for the near future, certainly — it contains only commentary on Supreme Court of Canada cases, starting with 2011. (It goes only a small way into 2012 in order to give commentary time to appear and me time to collect it; generally it’ll run somewhere between four and six months behind the present date.) The commentary is that which is available free online, essentially from Canadian law blogs and law firm web publications. And by “commentary” I mean material that offers some analysis, even minimal, of the decision in question and not simply a precis of the facts and the court’s reasoning.

The chart below shows you the current list of cases for which commentary has been sought; cases commented on are hyperlinked to the relevant page listing that commentary:

It’s highly likely I’ve missed some useful material, so please do let me know when that happens and I’ll gladly add the missing links to the database.

I find it remarkable how little commentary there is on the decisions of our highest court. Granted, many of the decisions, perhaps most, are of a less than earth-shaking nature. Yet, even decisions of small or narrow significance should generate and become part of a better conversation within the profession as a whole than the one I find now. A decision represents an opportunity, if nothing else, to consider a cluster of issues, operating as a sort of URI for that cluster; yet few if any in the Canadian legal profession take up the opportunity publicly at least. What I do find is a plethora — and I mean that in its pejorative sense — of simple summaries of decisions. These by and large add little or nothing to the free headnote, for example, that is published along with the decision from the Supreme Court.

Sadly, academic commentary is not freely available online. It is a disappointment to me that the relatively small number of Canadian law journals, particularly those emanating from law schools, still cling to the pay-to-view approach, ensuring, in effect, that there is no prospect of their gaining any audience beyond the profession. Worse, Canadian journals are distributed among the various commercial databases, further fractioning the already tiny resource.

I hope that you find this collection useful at times or at least interesting. Please do let me know how you see it being improved.

Comments

  1. Wonderful, Simon. Bookmarked.

    Your post shames me somewhat. I’ve not been doing enough commentary on cases of interest myself. I have a practice blog and never use it. I better get contributing, and not only because it’s good for others, it’s good for my own practice too.

  2. Thanks, Craig. And drop me a line when you publish a comment. That way I’ll be sure to include it.

  3. Like: this initiative overall, centralized website, use of a table. Thank you.

    Don’t like: this implementation of an embedded cross-site object. (In my up-to-date web browser, I have to scroll down the commentary.slaw.ca/table page to see the bottom of the embedded object, and then move the mouse pointer and separately scroll down the contents of that embedded object? Irritating.)

  4. Thanks for your comments, David. I’ll do what I can to remove the unfortunate need to scroll that last inch or two. Then you’ll only need to cycle through the database, ten at a time, using the controls at the upper right. I could make the chart show more cases at one time, but that would bring back the need to scroll, this time in the browser window.

  5. m. diane kindree

    What an efficient method of surveying selective commentary on judicial opinions. I welcome the convenience of your systematic approach (case, date) and hope you will include categories (coded)in the future. Super Simon!