The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference

Article Title

A Chief and Court in Transition: The Wagner Court and the Constitution


On December 17, 2017, and after little more than five years as a puisne judge, Richard Wagner became Canada’s 18th Chief Justice. Only William Ritchie and Bora Laskin rose to office more expeditiously. When appointed, Wagner J. was less well known than Beverley McLachlin, who served 10 years on the Court before becoming Chief Justice. Between 1989 and 2000, she was a vigorous jurist, writing frequently and at times fearlessly. In part because her jurisprudence moved unpredictably between liberal and conservative outcomes, her decisions were much discussed, if imperfectly understood. By contrast, those commenting on Wagner J.’s appointment were hard pressed to cite a body of work, and focused instead on his reputation as a collegial, fair-minded, and hardworking member of the Court.