Canada. Supreme Court; Judges--Selection and appointment; Bilingualism; Canada

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This paper is a first empirical foray in the debate concerning mandatory bilingualism for Supreme Court judges in Canada. The paper summarizes the main arguments, discusses the framing of bilingualism as a “legal” or an “identity” requirement, and uses empirical data to assess whether unilingualism has had an impact on four dimensions of the decision-making process at the Supreme Court of Canada: panel composition, assertiveness, individual caseloads and deference towards lower courts by unilingual and bilingual judges. Our results suggest that there is a correlation between the fluency in French and the first three elements but that there is no difference in the level of deference across linguistic groups towards francophone lower courts. Even if the paper is exploratory in nature and warrants further research, the general picture that emerges is that language proficiency superimposes itself as another kind of legal specialization in the inner-working of the Court.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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