2009-2010 Irwin Rudick
Over the years and most recently during my term as President of the Lord Reading Law Society, I have often heard the view, sometimes expressed in very strong terms, that the LRLS should be more “involved”. The school of thought would like to see a more activist LRLS. My view is that we must tread very carefully before going very far in this direction. There are a number of reasons for this.
First, our membership, like any other grouping, has diverse opinions on any legal or political issue, which may come to the fore. Taking one side or the other on a topic of hot debate may alienate certain members who may then say “I didn’t sign up for this” and resign. Obviously, this would not be a desirable outcome.
Secondly, in considering whether to go “activist” on a given issue, we must consider the position of a vital component of our membership, namely our judges. I think I could state without any fear of contradiction, that one of the most worthwhile and enjoyable aspect of the LRLS experience is to be able to talk informally and share a cocktail with our members who are judges. However, this experience could be compromised if the LRLS becomes embroiled in various controversies.
This being said, there are times when the LRLS must take a stand. The key, however, is that we do so with thorough care and deliberation. We recently had occasion to do this on the General consultation on Bill 94 – An Act to Establish Guidelines governing Accommodation Requests within the Administration and certain institutions – the “niqab law” for short. I think the procedures we followed in this case set an excellent precedent for the future.
• Firstly, we had the matter studied by our Human Rights Committee led by Me Frank Schlesinger and its findings were reported to the Executive and Board of Directors.
• Secondly, the report of the Human Rights Committee was disseminated to the Board of Directors, Executive and Past Presidents of the LRLS for comments, suggestions, amendments, etc.
• Thirdly, the final draft of our brief to the Committee on Institutions was distributed to the Executive, Board of Directors and Past Presidents of the LRLS for a vote via e-mail. Only when a vote favouring the submission of a brief to the Committee was received by myself as President, was the brief filed.
• Fourthly, and most importantly, we made it absolutely clear in the terms of our brief that no member of our Society, who was a full time sitting or supernumerary judge, participated in any manner in the preparation of the brief.
The Executive and the Board of Directors, by a strong majority vote, approved the brief of our Human Rights Committee which condemned the draft legislation.
I note with a certain amount of pleasure that following the submission of our brief, along with others, the hearings were suspended and the proposed legislation may be abandoned.
The bottom line is yes, we can and must be “activists” on occasion; but we must do so very carefully, and above all, we must pick our spots!