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Can Judge Jack Major save Canada's justice system?
The editor of The Mindapore Gazette . According to The Calgary Eye Opener of December 7, 1907, McGonigle "was educated at Toronto University, where he achieved brilliant results and finally took his degree of B.A. (Boozological Artist)."

20-Feb-07 -

the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune ... the law's delay ...
Shakespeare, Hamlet's soliloquy

Justice John ("Jack") Major (Supreme Court of Canada, retired) started practicing law in 1958 in a tiny office in the Calgary firm of Chambers, Might, Saucier (now Bennett Jones), then and now the most respectable firm of solicitors in Alberta, and the best. Jack was, and is, tall, almost gaunt, gothic, totally fit, possessed of a biting dead-pan sense of humour. The pompous partners of Bennett Jones (as late as 1987, Bennett Jones refused to admit women as partners) were almost all "solicitors" - earned most of Bennett Jones's fees by writing up reams of documents (they were, and are, paid by the page) for oil companies and utilities like Calgary Power Ltd. (now TransAlta and no longer a client) founded by Canadian Prime Minister R.B. Bennett - Bennett also founded Bennett Jones itself. On the other hand, Jack came to Bennett Jones from the wilds of Northern Ontario, he came as a court room warrior, a "barrister" - he had to think on his feet - not meticulously prepare contracts and debentures - he was paid for results not paper. To the paper pushers at Bennett Jones Jack was a bit of a rough diamond but, to round out their team, Bennett Jones needed a barrister or two - to help Calgary Power jack up electricity rates at the AEUB (now the Energy Utilities Board or "EUB") - to fight on behalf of or against the occasional rogue oil company. Jack performed with dispatch and ability - took to defending criminals and negligent doctors, embarrassing lazy cops and ambulance chasing lawyers - with common sense - an analytical ability - a recognition of human nature, be it mean or noble - a wicked sense of humour - an irreverence of authority - a cutting to the quick - an impenetrable dead-pan expression - Jack did not suffer wind-bags, pompoustidors or pee-Willies gladly. On one occasion Jack acted for a pompous, well connected, long-winded doctor who had been sued for performing surgery while under the influence of alcohol. The doctor continually phoned Jack to find out how settlement negotiations were proceeding. After three phone calls in as many days, Jack's assistant, who happened to be sitting in Jack's office, heard Jack field a fourth call from the exalted one:

Do you remember our telephone conversation of yesterday???? Did I tell you at that time that I'd call you when I heard anything ?? Did I call you? There's a message there somewhere.

End of conversation. When some of Bennett Jones's blue ribbon clients lost corporate direction they hired Mr. Common-sense Jack to sit on their corporations' boards of directors. The solicitors at Bennet Jones appointed barrister Jack a partner in the firm. When no one could read or understand the long-winded judgments of many Supreme Court of Canada judges, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Jack to Canada's top court.

Jack was the best of the self-confident, realistic, cut-to-the-quick, now-nearly-extinct barristers and judges who led the justice system when he started practicing law. When a lawyer rambled on for a full half hour before feared Supreme Court of Alberta Chief Justice Campbell ("the Chief") McLaurin (a judge from 1942 to 1968), the Chief turned to the long-winded's opponent: "Costs to you" ... turned to the long-winded one: "And bullshit to you." At the end of the prosecution's case against mega-repeat pimp and burglar Icabod "Dizzy" Hunt, the Chief glared inquiringly at Hunt:

Hunt - you're not going to get up and say you didn't do it are ya' ?

Hunt, who had spent days preparing an elaborate, perjury-larded alibi, gulped:

No, Sir!

When a cop refused to tell a defense lawyer who it was had reported his client to the police, the Chief snarled at the cop:

You're in contempt of court.

turned to the the sergeant in charge of the court detail:

Take him away.

The cop spent two days in a jail cell. Hauled back into court he quickly "purged" his contempt by identifying the informer. Never again did a cop refuse to answer a question.

But, more and more, in the years since Jack started practicing law, since the days of Campbell McLaurin, the politicians who appoint judges have appointed mugwumps to the bench - men and women valued for their willingness not to rock the judicial boat, for their adeptness in the fine art of political correctness, for their cowardice, for their fear to confront, for their mealy mouths, for their sheepish demeanours, for their passion to be loved, for their ability to project as wouldn't-hurt-a-flea nice guys. These hail-fellow-well-mets have sat on their hands while fee hungry lawyers and smoke screening cover-up cops have spent first weeks, then months churning and re churning evidence, repeating questions, ignoring issues, dragging out irrelevant, unqualified experts. Trials which once took an hour, began to take days, then weeks, then months, and, in the case of Air India, years. Air India cost $130 million. For years after Sikh terrorists killed 329 Canadian Air India passengers, everyone doodled and diddled and it wasn't for 22 years that a thoroughly modern day judge, Justice Ian Josephson, spent 600 pages of convoluted prose finding the accused bombers not guilty. The Canadian secret police ("CSIS") had snubbed their noses at the court - refused to open many of their files. As to what actually happened, not one of the 600 pages made anyone the the wiser as to what had actually happened. The Willie Picton murder case, currently meandering through its swamp of a trial in the Vancouver court house, will take years and years. It cost over $100 million even before the trial started. We predict Willie will be acquitted. The Canadian justice system is in shambles.

We asked guidance of our legal expert Paddy Nolan, Q.C. Said he:

The cops and the prosecutor wouldn't have dared to wait more than six months before bringing the Air India case in front of McLaurin. McLaurin would have spent less than a day on the trial. Wouldn't have cost more than $1,000 and a page and a half judgment. He'd have spent less than half a day, half a page and $500 on the Picton case.

Last September, after Judge Josephson had killed a forest of trees mealy mouthing his way through his 600 page judgment, no nonsense Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Jack Major to start cleaning up the wreaked Canadian justice system by heading a Royal Commission on the Air India debacle. "Just watch him," said Nolan. "Will the pendulum start swinging back? I hope so."

Last week, the secret police refused to open their files to Judge Major's Royal Commission. Old-time judge Jack Major announced:

If the documents remain, in a manner of speaking, blacked out, there is no way I can carry out my mandate.

Unless the government smartens up by March 5, Jack Major will quit.

  • For more on Judge Jack Major, Click Here
  • For an example of Jack Major's short, pithy common-sense approach to the law in B.C. v. Imperial Tobacco, Click Here
  • For a portrait of the Chief, Campbell McLaurin, Click Here - the Alberta Legal Archives website tells absolutely nothing about him but # 15 of the University of Calgary's (he was the U of C's first chancellor) portrait website has a very brief bio - to access the U of C portrait website, Click Here What a shame there is not more available information about this important man - not only was he U of C's first chancellor, he built the Calgary court house and the Bow River park system.
  • About mugwumps, Click Here
  • For Judge Josephson's judgment in the Air India case, Click Here
  • For the Globe's story of yesterday, Click Here
  • For details of the Picton case, Click Here
Reader Opinions on this story
To go to the main story Can Judge Jack Major save Canada's justice system? CLICK HERE won't read learned report We are not interested in reading what you are too ashamed to put your > names >on... The Eye Opener's reply:
Thank you for your informed comment. We have passed it on to the World's Greatest Expert on Everything. If you wish us to "put your name" on the comment which will be attached to the story, please advise. --- your obedient servant --- Robert Chambers Edwards, Editor