Crandall and Lawlor: The Politics of Judicial Appointment

Erin Crandall, Acadia University

Erin Crandall (Acadia University) and Andrea Lawlor (King’s University College, Western University) make a compelling case for judicial diversity in their study, “The Politics of Judicial Appointment: Do Party Connections Impede the Appointment of Women to Canada’s Federally Appointed Courts?” Crandall and Lawlor recognize that “Canada has performed better than many other advanced democracies at selecting women judges,” but state that the ratio of women to men appointed to judgeships “has yet to reach parity” and “the rate at which women were appointed…was…in decline” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 824).

Dr. Andrea Lawyer, King’s University College, Western University

Beginning with an overview of Canada’s judicial system, Crandall and Lawlor outline the differing roles provincial and federal actors have in judicial appointments. Reform at the federal level in 1989 establishes judicial advisory committees, but does not require the minister to pick appointees “from those recommended by committees,” thus leaving significant room for ministerial discretion (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 827). Meanwhile, at the provincial level, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) has “considerable control over who is recommended for each judicial vacancy” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 827). Further reform at within the province of Ontario required the attorney general to appoint at least one candidate from those put forth by the JAAC (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 827).

The hypotheses put forth by Crandall and Lawlor are 1) “the proportion of federally appointed judges who have donated to the party in power will increase in the lead-up to an election or change in governing party leadership,” 2) “an increase in the proportion of federally appointed judges who have donated to the party in power will be accompanied by a decrease in the proportion of women appointed to the bench,” and 3) “judicial appointees to Ontario’s provincial courts will be less likely to have donated to the party in power than federal appointees in Ontario” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, 829). Here, “party donations by judicial appointees are used as a proxy for party connection” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 830), and the province of Ontario is a proxy for general provincial appointment systems (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 824).

Looking at data collected from both the Department of Justice Canada’s website and the Canada Gazette regarding judicial appointments, as well as at donations recorded by Elections Canada and Elections Ontario, Crandall and Lawlor concluded that “the influence of party connections adversely affects the appointment of women judges by Canada’s federal government” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, 840)—with varying levels of support for each individual hypothesis. They conclude their study with a proposal for “fostering a more representative bench in Canada” (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 841). Put simply, this would involve simply encouraging leaders to prioritize diversity within the judicial selection process (Crandall and Lawlor, 2017, pp. 841).

You can read the full study here.

Crandall, E., & Lawlor, A. (2017). The Politics of Judicial Appointment: Do Party Connections Impede the Appointment of Women to Canada’s Federally Appointed Courts? Canadian Journal of Political Science, 50(03), 823-847.

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