A Proposal to Improve Judicial Writing in Ontario

Too frequently, Canadian Courts write overly long opinions or judgments. Specifically, it is not uncommon for judgments to run from the tens into the hundreds of pages. Such verbose judgments detract from the role of the Court, which is to set forth what the law is (if something is said, that no one understands, was anything really said at all?).

Likewise, verbose opinions create systemic inefficiency, requiring large amounts of time both to write, then later to read, analyze and try to determine “just what exactly does this mean or say.” This adds cost and complexity to the system, which ultimately is borne by the public purse.

To address this issue, which I will term “poor legal writing” I will suggest the following:

  1. The Courts should adopt rules along the following lines:
    1. Legal opinions and/or judgments shall not exceed ten pages in all but the most complex cases (such exceptions shall not be permitted in more than 5% of a Court’s opinions and/or judgments). Preferably, legal opinions are to be kept under 5 pages.
    2. To the fullest extent possible, legal opinions should be kept simple, so that they may be read and understood by the public. To the extent possible, complex topics shall be explained in plain language.
    3. Latin shall not be used or referenced in any opinion.
  2. To ensure our Courts embrace brevity and conciseness, I propose a bill be signed into law, providing the following:
    1. The Court system is a limited and overburdened public resource. To partially address this issue, it is desirable that opinions and judgments of the Court be concise. To effect this goal, for any Court system, where more than 5% of written opinions or judgments in any calendar year are in excess of 10 pages in length, the following shall occur:
      1. It’s budget shall be reduced by $1M in the first year of non-compliance, $10M in the second year, $100M in the third year and $1B in the fourth year and thereafter, until such Court system ceases such inefficient use of scare resources.
      2. For any Court system in non-compliance, it’s employees shall be barred from receiving any raises or compensation to which they would otherwise be entitled, and such compensation shall be forfeit and returned to the treasury for deficit reduction.

For more information or to discuss these opinions, please contact Michael Lesage of Michael’s Law Firm in Hamilton and Toronto ON at 647-495-8995.

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