Trial Judge Plagiarism - LawNow Magazine

Trial Judge Plagiarism

Two judges, one in British Columbia and one in Alberta have been found to have copied large amounts of material filed by the parties arguing cases before them into their judgments. Justice Lee of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was criticized by the Alberta Court of Appeal for issuing two sets of reasons in two separate chambers applications involving the same parties. In one he copied 72 paragraphs and in the other he copied 79 paragraphs. The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the parties would have to re-argue their applications. The Court found that Justice Lee’s reasons were inadequate because there was no meaningful discussion of conflicting evident, no analysis of competing arguments, his line of reasoning was completely obscured and there was no clear indication of how he reached his conclusions. The Court observed, tartly, that “it is clear that judges…are not mere scribes, collators of evidence, collage artists, or way stations on the road to justice.”

The British Columbia case has recently been heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. That case involved a severely brain-damaged infant, whose parents were awarded $4million in damages by trial Judge Joel Groves. However, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned the judgment when it found that Justice Groves had copied 321 out of 368 paragraphs from written submissions by one of the applicants. The Appeals Court wrote “None of the parties to this litigation was fairly treated by the failure of the trial judge to properly grapple with this case.” The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, which has not yet released its decision.

University of Alberta v. Chang 2012 ABCA 324

Cojocaru (Guardian ad litem) v. British Columbia Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, 2011 BCCA 192 (CanLII)


Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell is the former Editor and Legal Writer for LawNow at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

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