(Interview conducted by Adil Abdulla (“AA”) and Ranjan Das (“RD”) on November 10, 2022)
AA: Thank you for joining the OBA Civil Litigation Section, Justice Newbould. Could you start by telling us a bit about your path to the bench, and your time on the bench?
Justice Newbould: I was a litigator for my entire career, largely commercial, corporate, banking and some estate work. I had a varied practice, and I was fortunate to work with a lot of very good lawyers when I was young. I had been to the Supreme Court of Canada and appellate courts many times and eventually I thought, maybe I’d like to try out something different. I used to sit in court and wonder how I would decide something, when I was sitting there watching. So eventually I put my name in and I got appointed to the bench late in life – I was 63 when I was appointed – and I loved it from the start.
I spent a large amount of my time doing commercial work when I was on the bench. I spent one year in criminal law. I had never worked with juries, and I enjoyed that very much. But I was better off the commercial court, and I headed up our commercial court for last three or four years.
I didn't find going from counsel work to being a judge all that difficult, because I spent my whole life in court, so I sort of knew the way courts work, the way I thought courts should work.
One thing I enjoyed in the Commercial List was that a lot of work is done at 9:30 hearings. You often have 6-10 lawyers, and a lot of young lawyers, so I was able to get to know many young lawyers, an experience I would not have had were I not in the Commercial List.
AA: On that last point, about young lawyers rarely appearing in court, has that changed over time? Was there a time when young lawyers were more involved in main hearings?
Justice Newbould: When I started, we were in court all the time. I was in court as a junior, in my case to Jim Southy who later became a judge, and to Allan Findlay, a brilliant lawyer. And I was also in court myself right from the start. I had many trials in what was then called County Court. One type of trial was for a finance company that was a client of the firm suing bankrupt people based on fraud. It was always, “Why didn’t you tell the finance company about this long list of debts that you had?” And the defence was always, “Well, the manager knew it, but he told me if I put all of them down, I couldn't get the loan, so I didn't put them down.” There was always a contest between who was the worst liar, the manager or the debtor. It was great training for a young lawyer.
As time went on, it became more expensive, and so young lawyers spent more time doing discoveries and were not in court so much. Young lawyers didn’t get the chance to be in court as much as my generation did. And I’m not sure it’s coming back. When I was on the bench in the Commercial List, senior lawyers tried to give young lawyers a speaking role, and it was good when they did that, but they never had the chance that my generation had when we started. How about you? You’re two years out. How much time have you been able to spend in court?
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