Justice Ian Nordheimer named to Ontario’s top court | Toronto Star

 thestar.com  9/17/2017 1:13:12 AM 

Justice Ian Nordheimer, a proponent of the public’s right to know, has been appointed as a judge of the Court of Appeal of Ontario.
Justice Ian Nordheimer, a proponent of the public’s right to know, has been appointed as a judge of the Court of Appeal of Ontario.  (Alex Tavshunsky for the Toronto Star)  

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 top-billing 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 General 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.

“One thing is clear, and that is that Canada cannot purport to hold someone in detention forever,” Nordheimer said, reading from his decision in April.

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.”

“He understands, in my opinion as an observer of some of these cases, the vital role of the media in informing the public about the goings on of the judicial system and the citizens caught up in it,” Donovan said.

“We saw that at work in the Project Brazen-related search warrant cases.”

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