Federal Court cites op-ed by Prof. Joanna Harrington in recent decision

Op-ed argues revisions to UK judicial appointment process provide model for Canada

Sarah Kent - 13 January 2023

Professor Joanna Harrington, an expert in international and comparative constitutional law at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and the Associate Dean, Research for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, has been cited by the Federal Court in a recent decision.

On January 9, the Federal Court released its decision in Democracy Watch v Attorney General of Canada, 2023 FC 31, a judgment concerning an unsuccessful challenge to the constitutional validity of the federal judicial appointments system.

In its decision, Harrington’s 2015 op-ed, “From the U.K., a lesson on judicial appointments,” was cited by the court. Counsel for Democracy Watch had included the op-ed in its materials and submission. 

The op-ed argues that changes to the judicial appointments process in England and Wales in 2005 provide an important example for possible Canadian reforms.

Asked for comment, Harrington expressed surprise that a short opinion piece she wrote for a newspaper in 2015 was cited by a court. 

“But this is also a sign of how law adapts over time, and how the research side of our work as university law professors can be more widely disseminated in forms that are more accessible than the traditional law review article,” said Harrington.

“Perhaps we are in an era when lawyers and courts may credibly cite blog posts, op-eds, and advocacy pieces on the internet – although always with some caution to ensure that courts remain focussed on the facts and issues before them.”

A widely cited international law scholar, Harrington holds the Eldon Foote Chair in International Business and Law at the Faculty.