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Justice Martin named honorary fellow of American College of Trial Lawyers

Monday, October 22, 2018 @ 3:00 PM | By John Chunn


The American College of Trial Lawyers presented Justice Sheilah L. Martin of the Supreme Court of Canada with an honorary fellowship at its annual meeting in New Orleans.

The American College of Trial Lawyers is composed of fellows who represent the best of the trial bar in the United States and Canada. There are more than 5,900 fellows of the college, including judicial fellows elected before ascending to the bench, and honorary fellows, who have attained eminence in the highest ranks of the legal profession, the judiciary, or public service. Currently, 16 other Canadians are honorary fellows in the college.

College president Jeffrey S. Leon said, “We are so pleased that Justice Martin has joined the ranks of our honorary fellows, which historically have included all of the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Supreme Court of Canada. We welcome her and look forward to her ongoing association with the college.”

Guy J. Pratte of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Ottawa introduced Justice Martin. Pratte said: “It’s a singular privilege for me to introduce Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Sheilah Martin, as an honorary fellow of the college. It’s especially so because it’s another occasion to celebrate the very close bonds that have been forged between American and Canadian advocates and judges over so many years.”

Sheilah L. Martin

(L-R) Former president of The American College of Trial Lawyers Samuel Franklin presented Justice Sheilah L. Martin with an honorary fellowship at its annual meeting in New Orleans.


Continuing his remarks, Pratte said, “Throughout her academic, practising and judicial career, Madam Justice Martin has been a tireless lecturer worldwide in Canada and in of other countries around the world. She is significantly involved in judicial education programs. Now, as the college is first and foremost a fellowship of advocates, allow me to underscore as one of the prerequisites of a Supreme Court Canada justice that, to my mind, is of crucial importance for the proper administration of the justice. That is the ability to foster a collegial and civilized interaction between the justices that hear cases and the advocates that plead before them. It’s obvious that Justice Martin, as she has in all aspects of her professional career, embodies the exemplary qualities of patience, courtesy and open mindedness that have made the Supreme Court of Canada a model.”

Justice Martin said, “It’s a privilege to be part of such a lustrous company. As an honorary member, I would like to speak about an important topic, and that is advocating for equality. The skill that lawyers, especially trial lawyers, possess is so necessary in modern times. Second, these skills allow lawyers to advocate for advanced equality and to advance equality, which is one of the most pressing issues of our times.

“We need to be vigilant to see what the threat is to an independent judiciary and an independent bar, and it is clear that lawyering skills are needed in service of our civic responsibilities. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions. Einstein has told us no problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it. So a new level of consciousness will need to be created to face the challenge.”

In another honour for Canadian jurists, the college announced the creation of the Beverley McLachlin Access to Justice Award. The award, named in Beverley McLachlin’s honour, is to be presented to a judge or a member of the bar in the United States or Canada, whether or not a fellow of the college, who has played an exceptional role in creating and promoting access to justice. The award will recognize innovative measures or extraordinary personal commitment and professional dedication which have enhanced access to justice in the United States or Canada.

The award, created upon Chief Justice McLachlin’s retiring from the Supreme Court of Canada in 2017, serves to deliver a powerful message on behalf of the college, both in relation to the role of women in the legal profession and in relation to the importance of access to justice, which ties to the core mission of the college.

“During her tenure, former Chief Justice McLachlin made improvement of access to justice central to her quest to advance the rule of law and advance the administration of justice in Canada,” said Leon. “We are so pleased that she has allowed us to create the award in her honour. It is important in the United States and Canada to recognize and celebrate those who have made singular pro bono contributions to access to justice. Too often such important work fails to get the recognition it deserves.”

Photo by Benjamin Majors, Eventworks