Access to justice in Ontario is a hot topic and a priority for Attorney General Michael Bryant. In fact, he is the force behind various changes we are seeing in the legal arena that according to Jim Middlemiss (in his article Smile, you’re on CA Camera published in the March 2007 edition of Canadian Lawyer) include the introduction of the Access to Justice Act, 2006 that reforms the justice of the peace system and regulates paralegals.
Another change being made affects the Ontario Court of Appeal where cameras are being allowed in the courtroom for some hearings as part of a pilot project. Now, more than ever, counsel will have to enter this court with robes ironed, hair styled and legal arguments ready. The pressure is on. Not only do counsel have to persuade appellate judges of the merit of their client’s case, counsel has to do it on national television!
While the objective is a worthy one – providing an unobstructed view of our justice system at work – I must admit I am more interested in the impact televised hearings will have on the form and presentation of legal argument. I expect that some lawyers may be unnerved by the watchful eye of the public, some may be eager to make a name for themselves and some may not be fazed at all.
My hope is that it will further add to the caliber of advocacy and professionalism and inspire the public to take an interest.