Any court watcher knows that the Supreme Court of Canada delivers some of its major constitutional judgments in a “By the Court” format. The abandonment of the common law tradition of attributing decisions to individual judges in favour of an anonymous and unanimous approach is unique among Western democracies. By the Court is the first major study of these unanimous and anonymous decisions and features a complete inventory, chronology, and typology of these cases. Some significant examples include the Secession of Quebec reference and the Carter decision on assisted suicide. Peter McCormick and Marc Zanoni also ask where and why the idea emerged and whether it signals a genuinely collegial authorship or simply masks the dominance of the Chief Justice. Ultimately, By the Court explores the purposes and potential future of “By the Court,” framing this practice as the most dramatic form of a modern style that highlights the institution and downplays individual contributions.
Part 1: Introduction
1 What are By the Court decisions?
2 The Supreme Court of Canada Takes to the Constitutional Stage
3 Why Decision Presentation Formats Matter
Part 2: The Road to By the Court Decisions
4 Originality: Nothing to Copy
5 Uniqueness: A Global Common Law Survey
6 Early History: The “Minor Tradition”
7 Emergence: The Birth of the “Grand Tradition”
Part 3: The Modern By the Court Decisions
8 Inventory and Chronology of Decisions
9 A Typology of Decisions
10 Why These Cases?
Part 4: Conclusion
11 The Meaning and the Future of the By the Court Format
Notes; Bibliography; Index
Peter McCormick is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at the University of Lethbridge. Marc D. Zanoni is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Guelph.
This is an appealing book, and I recommend it to members of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries. Anyone with an interest in the history of the Supreme Court of Canada, their judgments, and the judgment writing process will enjoy this book.
~Ann Marie Melvie, Law Librarian, Canadian Law Library Review