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The Changing Composition of the Canadian Supreme Court

Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court of Canada announced that Justice Marie Deschamps will retire from the bench on August 7, 2012. She was originally appointed on August 8, 2002. Justice Deschamps will therefore have served ten years on the high court.

The coming vacancy will give conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper the opportunity to make his fifth appointment to the Supreme Court since he became Prime Minister in 2006. 

The appointments will not end there. Prime Minister Harper will have the opportunity to make at least two more appointments before the next tentatively scheduled election on October 19, 2015: Justice Morris Fish will reach the mandatory retirement age on November 16, 2013, and Justice Louis Lebel will reach that benchmark on November 30, 2014. (It is also likely that Justice Marshall Rothstein will retire before the next election because he will reach the mandatory retirement age on December 25, 2015, and he is unlikely to want to leave the Court without a full complement of nine in the middle of its 2015 Term. Justice Rothstein was Prime Minister Harper's first appointment to the Supreme Court in March 2006.)

All told, then, before the next election, Prime Minister Harper will likely have made eight appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada. That would be the fifth-highest number of Supreme Court appointments by any Prime Minister, and the second-most by a conservative Prime Minister.

As for possible candidates to fill the vacancy created by Justice Deschamps's retirement, her successor is likely to be chosen from the Quebec Court of Appeal. Among those judges, the likely candidates include Pierre Dalphond, Nicole Duval Hesler, and France Thibault.


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