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Canada high court nominee faces first-ever parliamentary hearing

[JURIST] Canadian Federal Court judge Marshall E. Rothstein [official profile; FJA materials], nominated to replace Justice John Major on the Supreme Court of Canada [official website], was questioned by a parliamentary committee in televised hearings [JURIST report] Monday, the first time a nominee to the Canadian high court has faced a US-style confirmation hearing. Rothstein was nominated [press release] by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week, just days after Harper announced that the nominee would face questions from parliament [press release]. Harper has called the televised hearings an "unprecedented step towards the more open and accountable approach to nominations," but critics, including Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [official profile] say the process could politicize the court [JURIST report].

During Monday's hearing, Rothstein emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary, saying that judges "can have no personal agenda." Rothstein also answered questions about interpreting whether laws violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Rothstein noted that judges must consider "that the statute that they're dealing with was passed by a democratically elected legislature" and said that in striking down laws that violate the constitution, the court must use the "least intrusive" method.

The parliamentary hearing is for informational purposes only. The prime minister will make the final decision on filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and Harper has promised to do so by Wednesday. From Toronto, Terry Weber of the Globe and Mail has more; the Globe's Dan Cook blogs the hearing here. The CBC offers recorded audio of Rothstein's opening statement. Slaw.ca provides additional resources on Rothstein's nomination.

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