Canadian Bar Association asks public to cool it with the name-calling

Personal attacks and vitriol towards judges are unacceptable says the organization.

click to enlarge Members of the public gathered to protest judge Lenehan's acquittal of Bassam Al-Rawi earlier this week at Grand Parade. - THE COAST
Members of the public gathered to protest judge Lenehan's acquittal of Bassam Al-Rawi earlier this week at Grand Parade.

The Nova Scotia branch of the national Canadian Bar Association is condemning some of the emotionally-charged comments and commentary that have been voiced against judge Gregory Lenehan.

Debate and complaints made in the proper channels are important features of the justice system that can lead to positive change, writes CBA-NS executive director Tina Tucker in a press release sent out Thursday, so long as those are done in a civilized manner.

“Commentary, analysis and even criticisms of judicial decisions and our justice system must be respectful, regardless of the forum in which they are taking place,” Tucker writes. “Vitriol, name-calling and personal attacks directed at anyone, including a sitting judge, are unacceptable.”

Lenehan’s acquittal of sexual assault charges against taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi has drawn strong, vocal outrage online and in the media since it was first reported last week by Metro's Haley Ryan.

Political figures and members of the public came together twice this week in Grand Parade to protest the judge’s remarks, and an online petition calling a formal inquiry now has over 36,000 signatures.

The CBA’s statements echo those already made by the Nova Scotia Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, which on Monday published a letter supporting Lenehan’s character and saying he is “the type of person that any reasonable, informed member of the public should want as a judge.”

The Crown has meanwhile already launched a formal appeal of the Al-Rawi verdict just six days into its 30-day limit, stating in a release that Lenehan made numerous judicial errors in his judgement. The decision also drew harsh words from premier Stephen McNeil, who said in an interview with TC Media that he was angry “with the system.”

The Canadian Bar Association represents some 36,000 lawyers, judges, legal professionals and law students all across Canada. The organization has also released a podcast this week, “Not Just a Bystander,” which deals with the legal implications of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

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