The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

CBA/ABC National

Supreme Court Advocacy Institute founders honoured with GG's Meritorious Service Medal

December 14 2015 14 December 2015

Former Supreme Court law clerks, Owen Rees and Grégoire Webber received a Meritorious Service Medal from the Governor-General last week for their efforts in founding the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute, almost a decade ago.

“As we approach our 10-year anniversary, it is significant to be recognized with this special decoration, which we take to be not a personal honour, but a sign of the success of the Institute in fulfilling its mandate,” said Webber, now Canada Research Chair in Public Law and Philosophy of Law at Queen’s University.

The Institute, which the Canadian Bar Association helped launch as a founding sponsor, offers free, non-partisan advocacy advice to lawyers scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court of Canada, in the form of simulated panel hearings. Counsel have the opportunity to do a trial run of their pleadings before a three-person panel comprised of senior appellate counsel, former Supreme Court law clerks, and professors of law.

Rees and Webber came up with the idea for the Institute while clerking at the Supreme Court.  “We felt the Court could be getting a little more assistance,” recalls Reed.

They drew inspiration from the Supreme Court Institute, based out of Washington’s Georgetown University, which offers its own moot court program to help counsel prepare for oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.  Webber and Rees enlisted the help of then retiring Justice Frank Iacobucci, who had an interest in pedagogy and helping the profession.  Iaccobucci agreed to serve as founding chair of the Institute.

“We could not have gotten it off the ground without him,” says Rees.

The Institute has grown tremendously popular among novice and experienced counsel alike. Over the last three years advocacy sessions have been convened for roughly half of the cases that have come before the top court.

“Our own advocacy advisers will ask for a panel to be convened,” says Grégoire.

That’s because no matter how much experience one has in appearing before the Supreme Court, there is always room to refine one’s advocacy skills, says Rees who served as the Executive Legal Officer to Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin until recently. Now a partner at Stockwoods in Toronto, he credits the volunteer panel members for the Institute’s success.  

“We accept this [medal] very proudly on behalf of every member of the Institute,” says Grégoire.

“They represent the very best of what the profession is,” Rees adds.  “Clearly they enjoy engaging in challenging legal issues. But they also take giving back to the profession quite seriously.  And part of that is that they see the value of the Institute for the [Supreme] Court.”

Photo: Former Supreme Court law clerks, and founding members of the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute Owen Rees (left) and Grégoire Webber (right).

No comments

Leave message

 Security code