Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Refining the Reasonable Apprehension of Bias Test: Providing Judges Better Tools for Addressing Judicial Disqualification

Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

Refining the Reasonable Apprehension of Bias Test: Providing Judges Better Tools for Addressing Judicial Disqualification

Article excerpt

Despite a considerable amount of litigation concerning judicial impartiality, the Canadian "reasonable apprehension of bias" test for judicial disqualification has remained fundamentally unaltered and is well accepted in the jurisprudence. Unfortunately, the application of the test continues to generate difficulties for judges who need to use it to make decisions in marginal cases. Based on previously published doctrinal and empirical research, the goal in the present contribution is to suggest modifications to the test that will better explain the existing jurisprudence and make it easier for judges to understand when recusal is or is not necessary in marginal cases. The authors consider first the advantages of the existing test and suggest that in order to be useful, any refinement to the test must, to the greatest extent possible, preserve those advantages. Second, the authors explain why inconsistent application of the test in marginal cases is a concern. Third, they analyze the ways in which the existing test, and the jurisprudence explaining and applying it, are problematic. Fourth, the authors propose a modification to the "reasonable apprehension of bias" test that is designed to address these shortcomings while preserving the key advantages of the existing test.

Malgré les nombreux litiges concernant l'impartialité du pouvoir judiciaire, le critère canadien de la crainte raisonnable de partialité pour déterminer l'inhabilité en matière judiciaire est resté fondamentalement intact et accepté dans la jurisprudence. Malheureusement, l'application du critère continue à présenter des difficultés pour les juges qui doivent l'utiliser pour prendre des décisions dans des cas marginaux. Cet article, qui s'appuie sur la recherche dans la jurisprudence et la recherche empirique, a pour objectif de suggérer des modifications au critère, modifications qui expliqueront mieux la jurisprudence existante et faciliteront la tâche aux juges qui doivent décider s'il y a lieu de se récuser dans des cas marginaux. Les auteurs examinent d'abord les avantages du critère actuel et avancent que pour être utile, toute précision qui y serait apportée doit, dans toute la mesure du possible, préserver ces avantages. Les auteurs expliquent ensuite pourquoi l'application non uniforme du critère dans les cas marginaux est préoccupante. Troisièmement, ils analysent les motifs qui font que le critère existant de même que la jurisprudence utilisée pour l'expliquer et l'appliquer sont problématiques. Quatrièmement, les auteurs proposent une modification au critère de crainte raisonnable de partialité conçue pour corriger ces lacunes tout en préservant les principaux avantages du critère existant.

Introduction

I. Why do we have the test we currently use? Principled and practical advantages and disadvantages

II. Why should we care about variability in the application of the reasonable apprehension of bias test?

III. Problems with the existing test

IV. An adjusted version of the reasonable apprehension of bias test

V.Assisting with the application of the test

Conclusion

Introduction

The "reasonable apprehension of bias" test for judicial disqualification has been a fixture of Canadian law for many years, at a minimum since its formulation in the National Energy Board case in 1978.1 By that time, the Supreme Court of Canada was able to draw on a long history of Canadian and other common law precedents in support of identically or similarly framed tests for determining judicial impartiality. Despite a considerable amount of litigation concerning judicial impartiality since that time, the test itself has remained fundamentally unaltered and is well accepted in the jurisprudence. Unfortunately, the application of the test continues to generate difficulties for judges who need to use it to make decisions in marginal cases.2

Our experience as facilitators in judicial education seminars over the years led us to believe that judges often have very different views about how the "reasonable apprehension of bias" test should be applied. …

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