Long time Toronto Star lawyer and noted constitutional expert Paul Schabas has been appointed a judge on the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario.
The announcement was made Thursday by federal attorney general David Lametti.
Reached by phone Schabas, a partner at Toronto’s Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, said he was honoured by the appointment. He said he would leave any further comment on the announcement to others who have worked with him over his 35-year law career.
Once of those was veteran Star lawyer Bert Bruser, who has been a key mentor to Schabas and gave him one of his first jobs as an attorney.
“Paul has great qualifications to be on the bench,” said Bruser, who hired Schabas as a summer student at Blake’s in the late 1980s.
“He’s a fabulous constitutional (lawyer). He’s hard working, efficient. It’s a superb appointment,” he said.
Torstar chairman John Honderich called Schabas one of the foremost litigators in Canada.
“The work he’s done in advocating modern libel laws will go down in Canadian journalistic history,” Honderich said.
“And his espousal of various causes has been exceptional,” he added.
Raised in Toronto, Schabas studied music as an undergraduate and played the French horn professionally before graduating law from the University of Toronto in 1984.
Joining the Bay St. firm in 1988, Schabas had a focus on media and constitutional law and argued important cases before the province’s top courts and the Supreme Court of Canada.
One, the 2009 case of Grant vs. Torstar, extended important legal protections to journalists .
Schabas served as Treasurer (President) of the Law Society of Ontario from 2016 to 2018. During that tenure he advocated for reconciliation with native Canadians, diversity and inclusion and better access to justice, a federal press release noted.
Lawyer Iris Fischer, a partner at Blake Cassels & Graydon, called Schabas a mentor and said his experience before the bench would make him a first-rate jurist behind it.
“He knows how to get to the heart of the matter, and, aside from being an incredibly sharp legal mind, he’s practical and he knows how to get to what matters quickly,” Fischer said.
“That has served him very well as a litigator, and it’s going to serve him very well as a judge,” she said.
Schabas, who has three adult children with wife Alison Girling, has taught media law at the U of T and was selected twice as one of the top 25 most influential lawyers in the country by Canadian Lawyer magazine.
Joseph Hall is a Toronto-based reporter and feature writer. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org