Advancing the Rule of Law

It’s that time of year again – The Law Society of Manitoba is calling for nominations for the Richard J. Scott Award, an honour presented annually to “an individual who advances the rule of law through advocacy, litigation, teaching, research or writing.”

Richard Scott is Manitoba’s longest serving Chief Justice, having been appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1985 and elevated to Associate Chief Justice later that same year, and then promoted to Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal in 1990. He retired from the Bench in 2013 and has since returned to legal practice as counsel to Hill Sokalski Walsh Olson.

The award was established by The Law Society of Manitoba in honour of Justice Scott’s retirement after 23 years as Chief Justice. To get a sense of why, you might read some of the numerous interviews and accolades for Justice Scott available on the web. For example, see:

On perusing these articles, you’ll soon get a sense of the man and his respect for the rule of law.

I didn’t meet Justice Scott until sometime after his retirement. He’s a member of the board of the Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg, a pro bono legal clinic I work for and helped to found. To say he understands the issues in access to justice is something of an under-statement. He’s seen first-hand the challenges that arise in our courts as Legal Aid budgets don’t keep pace with need, as increasing numbers of self-represented litigants plead their own cases, and as those without means to hire lawyers are left to the mercy of those with funds to retain counsel.

Justice Scott is a great advocate for the work we do at Legal Help Centre, a treasured volunteer and a valuable member of our board and committees. While I’ve no doubt he served Manitobans very well as Chief Justice, I am delighted that his current gig gives him the opportunity to work in a hands-on way to address some of the most obvious gaps in access to justice in our province.

Based on what he learned in his nearly 28 years on the Bench, Justice Scott’s current pro bono work on the front lines of access to justice proves beyond a reasonable doubt the breadth and depth of his belief in the rule of law. At Legal Help Centre, we continue to reap the benefits, not only of his vast experience and analytical mind, but also of his sharp wit and wisdom.

If you know of a worthy Manitoban engaged in advancing the rule of law, through that activities support an independent judiciary, an independent legal profession, access to legal services, access to justice, and public interest advocacy, submit your nomination before July 31.

Comments

  1. Though I’ve neither been employed in any capacity in the legal system nor ever lived in Manitoba the Honourable Richard J. Scott came to my attention some years ago during my (still ongoing) pursuit of rule-of-law / access to justice issues.

    Justice Scott was the Chair of a Canadian Judicial Council special committee that produced a report – “The Way Forward” – in 2002. On page 20 it speaks about the role of the CJC’s Executive Director. More revealing of what the CJC really had in mind is a comparison between the 2002 and 2003 annual reports. What had till then been a single consolidated set of by-laws was split into “Inquiries and Investigations By-laws” and the much longer “Procedures for Dealing With Complaints”. Nothing in “The Way Forward” hints at the unprecedented power given to the Executive Director in section 2.2 of the new “Procedures” to unilaterally decide that certain complaints will not reach the Council when he deems them to be “clearly irrational” or “an obvious abuse of the complaints process”.

    Links to these three documents can be found on this page:

    http://www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca/english/news_en.asp?selMenu=news_pub_all_en.asp