As a Business Law Firm that does a lot of collection litigation, we start our claims in Milton, Ontario. There are many reasons for doing this: the Court staff are friendly, the time to trial is the quickest in the GTA and the Judges are fair minded when hearing all matters.
One of the Judges, The Honourable Mr. Justice John Murray is retiring at the end of this year and he will be missed.
When I was an Articling Student 23 years ago I was in front of the Toronto Masters on an almost daily basis. I learned very quickly which Masters would be tolerant of the learning student and which treated you as if you were a seasoned lawyer: ie. know your stuff or fail. If you are a lawyer reading this who articled in the 1990s, I’ll just say “Master Sandler” and you know what I mean.
In Milton, Justice Murray is the equivalent of the “know your stuff or fail” Master. Justice Murray does not suffer the ill prepared lightly, nor should he. As lawyers we’re paid significant hourly rates to argue in Court: we should be prepared and if we are not, it should not go by unnoticed.
One of the great things about having Mr. Justice Murray in Milton is that it requires lawyers to bring their “A” game as you never know if you’ll be in front of him or not (I’m not suggesting we don’t try as hard in front of other Judges, but I am suggesting fear is an excellent courtroom motivator for very young lawyers).
While Justice Murray is known for his willingness to call lawyers out on poor preparation, he is also well known for his wit. His humour from the bench, provided it is not at your expense, is often a welcome break during Motions Court. Honestly, it’s also a little fun to see the fear in the eyes of Articling Students when he demands to know what Law School they went to.
My “oh no, I’m in for it now” moment in front of Mr. Justice Murray was quite a few years ago. My cell phone when off while waiting to be heard in Motions Court. As luck would have it, the ring tone was the theme from Mission Impossible. When it was my turn to argue my motion, Justice Murray stared me down from the Bench and said “you” will all of the frustration he must have felt. Thankfully, when I apologized profusely and said I hoped my Motion wouldn’t be mission impossible, he smiled, accepted my apology and we moved on.
I’m thankful my apology was accepted back then and I know I’m not alone when I say, we will miss Justice Murray in Milton.
Inga B. Andriessen JD