In this paper, we spin the question “Will Women Judges Really Make a Difference?” in another direction. While “difference” is a big preoccupation for us, our interest is less in the question of whether or not men and women judge differently, than in the fact of difference between judges: “differences of opinion” between judges that find textual expression in the form of published dissenting opinions. Using Canada’s first woman Supreme Court justice as our point of departure, we consider the nature of judicial work. In Part II, looking at statistics, we sketch a portrait of Justice Wilson’s judicial work, attending to types of opinions (unanimous, majority, dissenting, concurring), and methods of participation (signing and authoring). We contextualize this portrait by considering Wilson’s work alongside that of colleagues with whom she sat. We follow two strands in this data. The first, very visible in Part II, focuses attention on particular judges, raising questions about difference, voice and identity. In Part III, influenced by the insights of institutional ethnography, we reflect on a second strand in the data, one that suggests room for more attention to the complex collaborative and institutional dimensions to the production of law. If the empirical snapshot can encourage attention to the role of difference in the work of Canada’s first woman Supreme Court justice, it should also encourage attention to the place of difference more generally in the making of law. The judgments of Justice Bertha Wilson can enable a robust discussion about the production of opinions, as well as nuance in our thinking about the implications of collaboration, authorship and voice.
Belleau, Marie-Claire; Johnson, Rebecca; and Vinters, Christina.
"Voicing an Opinion: Authorship, Collaboration and the Judgments of Justice Bertha Wilson."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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