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Chief Justice of Canada Visits Stetson Law


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Chief Justice McLachlin teaches a course on Wednesday, March 4, at Stetson University College of Law. Click for high-resolution image.

Rt. Hon. Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada since 2000 and the first woman to hold the position,  visited the Stetson University College of Law campus in Gulfport. While at Stetson, Chief Justice McLachlin  taught an Advanced Comparative Tort Law course, met with faculty, and participated in informal discussions with students in her role as Distinguished International Fellow.

On March 4 in Stetson’s Mann Lounge, Justice McLachlin fielded questions from students about some of the landmark interpretations by the Supreme Court of Canada that have shaped social justice in the country. She also advised Stetson law students on the importance of collegiality, legal analysis and the ethic of honest service.

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Chief Justice McLachlin speaks during an informal question-and-answer session at Stetson Law in Gulfport. Click image for high-resolution version.

“It’s a license to serve the people. That’s why you are given your privileges,” McLachlin responded to a student’s inquiry about why character should be important to aspiring lawyers. It is a lesson that is sometimes forgotten in rushing about, she said. “When you talk to lawyers who have had happy professional careers ….what they remember is how they were able to help people or how they were able to do something that was good for society.”

McLachlin discussed the importance of balance in the legal profession. “A good lawyer has to think not only about her side of the case but the other side of the case and assess its strength,” McLachlin shared. “You have to see both sides whether you are a lawyer or a judge.” McLachlin stressed the importance of stepping into the shoes of the person before the bench, and trying to see the matter as that person sees it.

“Every nation’s law has to be true to its culture and its people and it’s a unique social emanation,” McLachlin said of providing context to legal tradition.

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Chief Justice McLachlin talks with Stetson Law students following a question-and-answer session on Wednesday, March 4, in the Mann Lounge. Click image for high-resolution version.

After World War II, social policy in Canada focused on developing ways of helping marginalized people, McLachlin said. The Chief Justice added that Canada provides strong protections for disabled individuals at provincial and federal levels. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, similar to the American Bill of Rights, contains a provision outlining Equality Rights that prohibits discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

Canada’s Supreme Court is composed of nine elected justices, including four women and five men. McLachlin became a member of the Supreme Court of Canada on March 30, 1989, and ascended to Chief Justice on January 7, 2000.