Nord­heimer named to On­tario’s top court

Jus­tice ruled in key cases for the pub­lic’s right to know

Toronto Star - - NEWS - MARY ORMSBY FEA­TURE WRITER

The pub­lic was wiser, sooner, be­cause of Mr. Jus­tice Ian Nord­heimer’s be­lief in open court de­ci­sions.

From or­der­ing the re­lease of search war­rant in­for­ma­tion linked to mayor Rob Ford to nam­ing On­tario’s top­billing physi­cians, Nord­heimer’s in­volve­ment in Su­pe­rior Court rul­ings has, in key cases, granted the larger com­mu­nity ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion that some par­ties wanted to re­main se­cret.

Now, Nord­heimer, a pro­po­nent of the pub­lic’s right to know, has a seat in the prov­ince’s top court.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter and At­tor­ney Gen- eral Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould has ap­pointed Nord­heimer a judge of the Court of Ap­peal of On­tario. The Toronto na­tive spent 18 years as a judge of Toronto’s Su­pe­rior Court of Jus­tice and ad­min­is­tra­tive judge of the Di­vi­sional Court.

Toronto de­fence lawyer Daniel Brown said los­ing Nord­heimer from Su­pe­rior Court is bit­ter­sweet.

“There are some judges the de­fence lawyers are happy to see in the court­room and there are some judges the Crown at­tor­neys are happy to see in the court­room,” Brown said.

“It seemed as though both de­fence lawyers and Crown at­tor­ney (were) happy to see Jus­tice Nord­heimer pre­sid­ing over a case . . . He’s bal­anced and fair and you feel like your ar­gu­ment is be­ing heard when you ap­pear be­fore him and you feel like the re­sult is a just one.”

In a Depart­ment of Jus­tice Canada state­ment re­leased Friday, Nord­heimer was de­scribed as ren­der­ing “numer­ous prece­dent-set­ting judg­ments in civil and crim­i­nal law, grap­pling with is­sues at the heart of Canada’s con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy, such as open court prin­ci­ple, the rights of the ac­cused and treat­ment of law­fully as­sem­bled pro­test­ers.”

Ear­lier this year, Nord­heimer ruled on Canada’s prac­tice of in­def­i­nite im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion in or­der­ing the re­lease of Kashif Ali, whom the govern­ment was un­able to de­port.

The West African man, who had not been con­victed of a crime, had spent more than seven years in a max­i­mum-se­cu­rity jail.

Nord­heimer called the de­ten­tion “un­ac­cept­able” and ruled that it vi­o­lated Ali’s char­ter rights.

In 2013, Ford’s trou­bled life — there was a cell­phone video of him smok­ing crack and al­le­ga­tions of drink­ing and driv­ing, snort­ing co­caine, abus­ing staffers — was un­der scru­tiny. The po­lice were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the then-mayor and his friend, San­dro Lisi, in Project Brazen.

Nord­heimer presided over key rul­ings that or­dered po­lice doc­u­ments to be made pub­lic.

Fol­low­ing le­gal chal­lenges from me­dia outlets, in­clud­ing the Star, the judge wrote in a late Novem­ber 2013 rul­ing:

“We are deal­ing with the ac­tions of the duly elected Mayor of the coun­try’s largest city and the ex­ten­sive in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­der­taken by the po­lice into those ac­tions,” Nord­heimer said in his de­ci­sion.

“In terms of le­gal pro­ceed­ings, it is hard to con­ceive of a mat­ter that would be of more im­por­tance to the pub­lic in­ter­est, at this par­tic­u­lar point in time, than the one that is pre­sented by this case in the con­text in which is has un­folded.”

In­ves­tiga­tive reporter Kevin Dono­van, who led the Star’s cov­er­age of Ford, said Nord­heimer’s “de­ci­sions over the years have given him the well-de­served rep­u­ta­tion for cham­pi­oning the pub­lic’s ac­cess to the court sys­tem.”

Jus­tice Ian Nord­heimer has been ap­pointed a judge of the Court of Ap­peal of On­tario.

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