In “Opinion: A free press must not undermine fair administration of justice“, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia Christopher Hinkson addressed two opinion pieces by reporter Ian Mulgrew (Cotton v. Berry and Cambie Surgeries Corporation v. British Columbia). Justice Hinkson argued that the articles by the reporter undermined democracy by arbitrarily casting the courts in a negative light.
Was it appropriate for Justice Hinkson to speak out in the press against the press? Did Justice Hinkson go far enough to fix the damage?
The courts should be engaging the public. However, Justice Hinkson’s article may have been partly ineffective. Parts of his article justifying the attacked decisions requires the reader to have an understanding of the law.
For example, in explaining the delay in the Cambie case, he writes: “Justice Steeves has issued 25 rulings on pre-trial matters…” How does this help explain the delay to a lay person? What does it mean to issue a ruling? What is a ruling? What is a pre-trial matter? How is someone without a legal background to know what this means? How does explaining the delay in this way bridge the gap between the courts and the public’s understanding of what occurred?
I agree. The courts need to speak to the public. The appearance of justice is just as important as justice itself. However, our courts need to do so in a way that addresses the “curse of knowledge”. Part of doing so, includes embracing different mediums for explaining decisions, televising significant trials of public interest, enlisting a spokesperson for the court, using social media to speak to the public, and writing simply.
(Views are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)