Charter Decisions in the McLachlin Era: Consensus and Ideology at the Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court Law Review (2d), Vol. 47, pp. 475-511, 2009
37 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2009 Last revised: 4 Nov 2009
Date Written: April 16, 2009
This paper examines how justices on the Supreme Court of Canada voted in Charter appeals between 2000 and 2009. Charter appeals, at least in popular belief (and possibly also in theory), have the greatest potential to reveal voting that is influenced by extra-legal policy preferences. Confining the analysis to the time during which Chief Justice McLachlin has led the Court aids in controlling for the effects of a particular Chief Justice in assessing the roles of ideology and consensus.
Several of the Court's members have exhibited sharply different voting proclivities in s.15 (equality rights) appeals as compared with Charter claims made in the context of criminal law appeals (and, indeed, other Charter appeals). This finding suggests that at least some of the justices on the Court have been influenced by policy preferences on at least some occasions in discrete areas of Charter rights adjudication. On the other hand, it also suggests that judicial policy preferences are richer and significantly more nuanced than can adequately be captured by a simple "right"-"left" or "conservative"-"liberal" characterization of these policy preferences. The paper discusses a number of implications of the analysis and findings.
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