The Supreme Court of Canada and Judicial Legitimacy: The Rise and Fall of Chief Justice Lyman Poore Duff

By Brown, R. Blake | McGill Law Journal, May 2002 | Go to article overview

The Supreme Court of Canada and Judicial Legitimacy: The Rise and Fall of Chief Justice Lyman Poore Duff


Brown, R. Blake, McGill Law Journal


Legal institutions often seek to achieve legitimacy through connections to prominent members of the legal profession. Sir Lyman Poore Duff, a member of the Supreme Court of Canada from 1906 to 1944, was heralded as one of the greatest jurists in Canada's legal history during the 1930s and 1940s. His reputation helped engender confidence in and provide legitimacy to the Supreme Court of Canada.

During the Court's period of transition leading up to the end of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1949, Duff emerged as a justice thought capable of leading an independent Court. Although arguably only an adequate jurist, Duffs educational, ethnic, class, and religious background were of the kind required of an authoritative legal figure during this period. Through his work, Duff simultaneously symbolized Canada's independence and its imperial ties to English law. Allusions to British justice and English legal traditions instilled confidence that an independent Supreme Court would be capable of adjudicating cases concerning Canada's Constitution after the elimination of Privy Council appeals. Duff thus served to link the former Dominion of the British Empire and the new and independent Canada of the future.

Although his final day as Chief Justice was said to mark a "milestone in the legal history of Canada", Duffs stature in the Canadian legal community declined significantly after World War II. As the Court's focus on federalism issues gave way to an emphasis on "rights-protection," Duffs influence as a jurist faded into the shadows of legal history.

Les institutions legales cherchent souvent a obtenir leur legitimite en cotoyant d'importantes personalites de la profession juridique. Sir Lyman Poore Duff, membre de la Cour supreme du Canada de 1906 a 1944, a ete designe comme l'un des plus grands juristes de l'histoire juridique da Canada des amenes trente et quarante. Sa reputation a aide a engendrer la confiance dans la Cour supreme du Canada et lui donner sa legitimite.

Pendant la periode de transition de la Cour menant a la fin des appels au Comite Judiciaire da Conseil Prive en 1949, Duff se revela etre un juge capable de diriger une cour independante. Bien que l'on puisse soutenir que Duff n'est qu'un juriste adequat, son education et ses acquis ethnique, religieux et des differends de classes etaient de ceux exiges d'un personnage d'autorite juridique de l'epoque, par son travail, Duff a symbolise a la fois l'independance du Canada mais aussi les liens imperiaux avec le droit anglais. Des allusions a la justice britannique et aux traditions legales anglaises ont inspire la confiance qu'une cour supreme independante serait capable de juger des causes concernant la Constitution du Canada, et ce, meme apres l'elimination des appels au Conseil Prive. Duff a ainsi servi de lien entre l'ancien domaine de l'Empire britannique et le Canada nouveau et independant.

Meme si l'on dit de ses derniers jours en tant que juge en Chef qu'ils font figure de [??]jalons dans l'histoire legale du Canada[??], l'importance de Duff dans la communaute legale a considerablement decline apres la Deuxieme Guerre Mondiale. Alors que la Cour accordait tree importance particuliere a la protection des droits, l'influence de Duff, juriste, s'evanouissait darts les ombres de l'histoire juridique.

Introduction

I.   The Supreme Court's Need for a Legitimating Figure

II.  Lyman Poore Duff (1865-1955)

III. Requirements Necessary to Legitimate the Court

     A. Personal Characteristics

     B. Professional Characteristics

        1. Duff and British Justice

        2. Duff and Canadian Nationalism

        3. Duff's Perceived Constitutional Expertise

        4. If Not Duff?

Conclusion

Great figures make history no less by the myths we create about them than by their actual contributions to the content and spirit of our intellectual life. (1)

Introduction

Perhaps no profession makes a greater use of history and traditions than the legal community. …

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