Introducing Justice Epstein, U of T Law’s New Justice-In-Residence

Shari Nathan (2L) and Maud Rozee (2L)


UV: Would you mind telling us about your background?

JE: I was born and raised in Toronto, in a normal, very low-income family. I went to Queen’s and got a commerce degree, Commerce ’72, if you can imagine. And then – this is where it gets interesting – I didn’t know what I was going to do with a commerce degree. I had a partner in those days, and we decided to go to a place called Temagami, which is northern Ontario, north of North Bay, because we had worked there at a fishing camp during the summers.

We invested five hundred dollars and bought a few acres of land. But we had to build on it within twenty-four months or lose it. It was the government’s way to get money for the sale of land and discourage speculators; they wanted people who were going to invest in the community. He also was a commerce grad. And we built a house. We had no electricity, no water. We were on an island seven miles from the nearest road and we sawed and we hammered and we fished and we shot partridge and we ate off the land and we built a house! We liked it so much that we decided we wanted to stay in Temagami, on the lake. But we had business degrees, so we had to do something.

So we bought a fishing camp. I told you it got interesting. December 31, 1972, we closed the transaction. He borrowed money from his mother because his father had died and I borrowed money from my mother because my father had died. And that was our down payment to purchase this fishing camp.

We took over on January 1, 1973. And it was quite an ordeal. It had seven motel units and three housekeeping cabins and a bunch of boats and snowmobiles. It was on a five acre island on Lake Temagami. All of our employees were Ojibwe Indians from the Bear Island Band up there, except for David and me. We were the two main employees and on the cook’s day off I cooked and on the bartender’s day off I bartended. I did all of the laundry, [with] a ringer washer and lines outside. And David did all the motors and stuff.

After about seven months David decided he didn’t like it and he wanted to go to British Columbia and be a hermit. Told you it was interesting. And he asked me to join him. And I said, “Well, I have two problems. Number one, I don’t want to be a hermit. And number two, I’ve got this responsibility.”

So he left and I was there running everything. I stayed for another year and a half and it was unbelievable in terms of the demands on me. I mean, I really had to get up in the morning and pull snakes out of the water pump to make sure we had water and things like that.

After two years of a lot of learning and more work than any one person should do in a lifetime, I decided I’d had enough. My brother-in-law was a lawyer and I said, “How do I get rid of something?” This was before computers, before fax machines, before anything. He mailed me something called a quitclaim deed. And I called the mortgagees and I said, “I have something for you.” And they came over and I gave them a document that said they owned the hotel again. We lost our down payment and deposit and all that we paid off on principal.

As I was preparing for that, my departure, I got on a bus and I went to North Bay and I went into a high school auditorium and I wrote my LSATs. I hadn’t had a book in my hand for two years. I don’t think I’d had a pen in my hand for two years. I wrote my LSATs and got into U of T. So I gave the mortgagees their quitclaim deed. I then got on a bus and came to Toronto.

By the time I got to Toronto, I had $11 in my world. It was a Monday at noon. I had to get a job that day that would give me cash because I had no place to stay.  So I got a job as a cocktail waitress at the Sheraton Centre Hotel, top floor, a place called the Pinnacle. By one in the morning when the bar closed, I, through my tips, had cash and I had money to pay to stay somewhere.

That was the summer of 1974; I worked as a cocktail waitress all summer and saved enough money to start U of T Law in 1974. And I worked as a cocktail waitress and a coat check girl all through first year law and summer of second year as well. And summer of second year law, I met my ex-husband, who was a lawyer. We got married and had a son in third year law, and then had another son while I was in Bar Ad [Editor’s note: The Bar Admission Course]. Actually, I had the sons: he was just there. But he already had two boys, who were three and five, who were with us.

By the time I started articling at what was then Faskens, I was looking after four boys, and the oldest was about 7. It was busy. And I was the first woman hired back into the Faskens litigation department. So I worked there for about four years. And then Fraser Beatty, now Dentons, offered me a job. And I actually thought they were more flexible when it came to family demands.

I took the job and I worked there for about another three or four years. And then my marriage ended and I remarried my current husband and we had a daughter. So I started my own law firm because I thought: I was really committed to being a mother, and it hadn’t worked so well for me being part of large law firms, and I’d done so brilliantly in my previous experience at the fishing camp, why not start this again?

Anyway, I started my own law firm called Gloria Epstein & Associates. I started that in 1985, and by the time I was appointed a judge in 1993, I had about six lawyers working with me. It was a good little litigation boutique. There was only one other female-owned litigation boutique at the time, so that was a source of pride.

I applied to be a judge because I wasn’t very good at running businesses. In fact, I was really bad — I just couldn’t ask people for money — oh, you don’t want to pay your bill, that’s fine. But I really care about the law and I really care about people. That was what I wanted to devote my life to. The job that made the most sense was to be a judge because I didn’t have to worry about billing people, and I could get involved in their issues and do the kind of work that was important to me. I was just really, really lucky that I got appointed.

One other little side bar — the baby I had in Bar Ad, and the baby I had in 1985 when I started my firm are both U of T Law grads — so I have a strong connection with the school!

I got into the whole Temagami fishing camp thing because I was up there, and I’d been there before — it wasn’t by design. But it had become such a big part of who I am, and often when I’m asked what was the most important part of your life that gave me the tools that I needed to be a good judge, it would be those two years.

UV: What were those tools?

Not that I didn’t have a strong work ethic before, but after those two years I could do anything. I could have four young kids to look after, and finish U of T Law, and write my Bar Ads, and article at Faskens, and get a job there, and start my career at Faskens really under the spotlight. I could do that because of the strength I had developed in running that fishing camp.

And when I say I got up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to make the breakfasts and the sandwiches that the fishing guys took out on the boat or the snowmobiles, and I went to bed at 2 o’clock after I cleaned the bar and the men’s washroom and picked cigarette butts out of the urinals, I mean it. So six days a week I went to bed at 2 and got up at 4:30. Six days a week. On Sunday, the bar closed earlier and I actually got like five hours of sleep instead of two. But a lot of people say, “Oh yeah, I didn’t get any sleep.” I didn’t get any sleep. And I was carrying the beer that was delivered at the dock. I was carrying three full cases of beer up three flights of steps times twenty-five trips every Friday — it was crazy. And I was putting up with bad behaviour. I was a woman on her own; I was twenty-one. So with that behind me, I could do all that stuff with the kids and the law and the articling — I had the grit for it by then.

The other thing is when you’re in the tourism business, you have to respond to the needs of all kinds of different people. You’ve got to be able to read them. And you’ve got to do your best to make sure that their needs are responded to and their idiosyncrasies are responded to. And my experience with the guests, my experience with my own staff, my experience with the Ojibwe was sort of a daily education on just people.

And that to me is what law and ultimately judging is all about. They were people from all different walks of life, just like the people in our cases are from all different walks of life. It’s not like I graduated from business school and I went and worked at KPMG, where you’ve got a certain stratosphere of people who you engage with on a daily basis. This was just chaos. But it was good because of how much I learned and the capacity I developed for interacting with people, reading them, connecting the dots, responding to them. And caring, actually.

UV: What advice do you have for students generally and those who want to become judges specifically?

Live your life. Make it big. For several reasons. One is I think the broader your life experiences, the better a judge you will be. I’ve got some colleagues who are really smart. They’re great judges, who have spent most of their lives reading. And I’m not being critical of them because they bring a lot to the court. I bring something different to the court. I bring an understanding of people that I think is really important. So you can go one way or another — or you can do a mixture of both. Probably I should’ve read a bit more.

The other thing is by leading a big life and being out there, you meet people. And I think it’s very difficult to be fortunate enough to be appointed a judge if you don’t know anybody. Because there will be nobody speaking for you. I was really really fortunate that in my life, particularly with my current husband, that I got to meet people at levels of business and levels of politics who got to know me and respect me who could speak on my behalf and help the process along. And let’s be real — at least when I was appointed twenty-five years ago, there’s certain things they look at in terms of your abilities, but it sure helps if somebody’s speaking for you. And that’s not going to happen if you don’t know anybody. But who knows, maybe they’ll draw names out of a hat by the time you guys want to be judges. Things do change.

UV: We know that the Judge in Residence Program is fairly new. Can you tell us a little about the program and how you got involved in it?
About year and a half ago I went supernumerary, which means I sit half as many weeks as a full time judge. It’s a great opportunity judges have, if your years of service and your age add up to 80. You can choose to do it — you don’t have to and some people don’t for various reasons. I did because I wanted to spend the last ten years of my professional career giving back to the community. I had spent a lot of years practicing law and a lot of years as a judge really focussing on my job as a lawyer and a judge. That, plus raising a family, didn’t give me a lot of time for community service and things like that. So going supernumerary freed up some time.

Some people, like Justice Sharpe, who’s going to be doing this as well, he’s supernumerary, and he writes books in the time he’s not engaged in hearing cases and writing them. Nobody would want to read a book I would write, trust me. I don’t write books. But I like to connect with people. I’ve become involved in different charities and different other kinds of activities that I think will take the skills that I have and hopefully benefit people in the community — in the profession and in the broader community.

So Justice Sharpe and I talked to Dean Iacobucci. Quite frankly I can’t remember — I think it was the Dean’s idea — because you’ve got this beautiful new building, you’ve got empty offices, and the Dean is friends with both Justice Sharpe and me. And I think he got the idea that, we’ve got these empty offices, you guys are supernumerary, you’ve got a connection with the law school, you’re committed to the law school, you support the law school — I was until recently president of the Law Alumni Association — so how about figuring out a way for members of the court to occupy this office to the extent possible and connect with the students and the faculty?

If I’m working on a particular topic, or interested in a particular topic, I can sit in on a class, or I can help guide the discussion or I can help present. I’ve already had some great discussions with members of the faculty about certain topics and interests I’ve been working on. But as far as the students are concerned, I’m hoping to find ways to make myself more accessible. If you want to come in and say, “How did you do it? How did you do being a wife, mother – how does that work, and what’s going on in the profession when it comes to women and when it comes to families?” There’s all kinds of insight and experience I have that I’m happy to share. I think there’s a great opportunity for us to give to the students, share with the faculty and play somewhat of a role in the life of a law school.

And I have to tell you, I didn’t see this part coming — I started last week, and I’m in the middle of the most difficult decision I’ve written in twenty-five years as a judge. It involves the youth criminal justice system, and there are two sixteen year olds who participated in the murder of another sixteen year old and they were sentenced as adults and the issue on appeal is whether they should’ve received youth sentences. It involves statutory interpretation, a lot of complexity in parts of the Youth Criminal Justice Act that have never been considered, as well as social issues — what’s the right thing to do, whatever “right” means in this context. I was getting bogged down with it and I was struggling. I came here and it was just a different atmosphere, and things started to make sense. I’ve been working away here, I think, curiously in a more productive fashion.

UV: Are you working on anything particular while you’re here – you mentioned you’re interested in a couple of different areas?

I’ve been talking to Professor Waddams about Sattva and Ledcor decisions because I have a case on Monday that will likely be influenced by Ledcor. I’ve agreed to go to Professor Fernandez’s Contracts class and talk about a contracts case in which I was involved a couple of years ago, that’s a fairly basic contracts case but there’s a backstory in terms of what happened behind the scenes at the Court of Appeal that makes it particularly interesting. I told Professor Fernandez and she thought it would be good to come in not just to talk about how we worked through which document was actually the contract and things like that but what politically went on behind the scenes that made this interesting. It’s interesting because right now I’m working mainly on criminal cases. The Court of Appeal, just over half the work we do is criminal. So, frequently a lot of the heavy reserves you pick up are criminal. It’s pretty important stuff and pretty hard.

UV: You obviously have a lot of insight into being a woman in the legal field. Do you have any insights about changes you’ve noticed, or advice you would give to young women entering the field now?

What I’m going to say is probably predictable, and that’s — it’s certainly a lot — the atmosphere, the politics, the environment are probably a lot easier than they were. If I started to tell you some of the things that were said and done to me — well you just wouldn’t believe it. You really wouldn’t believe it… And what we did in those days was we just toughed it out. We didn’t do anything; we just walked away. We went back to work. Because there was a general attitude that if you started to fight back you wouldn’t be given the opportunities that were just then being created. So you didn’t want to lose that chance to get in and prove that you could do it like the guys could do it. And then we started to get the respect and credibility that went with our being able to do good work, and then we were in a better position, a better footing, to start to challenge the way we were treated. So that’s been the evolution. And we’re not all the way there yet.

I still feel it. Can you believe that? I’m sixty-five years old, I’ve been a judge twenty-five years, I’ve been in the law forty years. And I still am treated in a way by people that’s not expressly dismissive but subliminally dismissive. And it makes me crazy. But this is by guys who are seventy-five years old, and they’re not going to change. I’m not going to change. Why, why am I going to start? Really? So that’s tough but understandable. And they don’t even know it. They don’t get it. And they never will. So what am I going to do? Say something and they get upset and I get upset? It’s not going to do anything.

What bothers me though is I talk to some of the young women who are just going out, and they contact me, my law clerks afterwards, and they say, “I was just with junior lawyers, five years out, and here I am one year out, U of T grad and former Court of Appeal law clerk, good job, smart — these guys talked around me.” How is it possible that’s still happening? She called me in and asked me for my advice, said, “What’s your advice?” I said, “Beat them.” She did.

So is it over? Are we there? Is it done? Are we ever going to be there? I don’t know. But we’re a long way from where we were.

That’s on the social interaction side. On the practical side, it’s way different. On the practical side, when I was in my twenties having babies, the women did the work at home, and the men didn’t. And even if you had another job, you’d be working sixty to seventy hours a week at Faskens trying to prove how good you were as the first woman, you were still expected to come home and peel the potatoes and cook the meal and make the bed and do the laundry. Expected. And I did. And that was really tough. It was tough because it was just physically debilitating. It was also emotionally tough.

And, in terms of developing my career, it was difficult because my counterparts, the young men who were at Faskens, they were going out to squash after work. They were developing a reputation in the legal community that would serve them well later as they were trying to start their own firm or get business or make partner. Whatever it was. Remember I talked to you about living big? They were doing it. They were making the contacts and the relationships and they were going on golf weekends, and all those things that I wasn’t doing because I was looking after my kids and my household. So when I started my own firm I started from way behind where these guys did because nobody knew who I was. I didn’t know anybody to get work from. And that, I think, is often overlooked.

But what’s happened — I have a son whose name is John Adair — and he’s one of the best — and I’m not just saying this because I’m the kid’s mum — he’s one of the best litigators, I would say in the province. His wife’s a medical doctor; they have three kids. He’s got his own firm. He’s hugely well respected. John Laskin, you’ve heard of him, he came up to me the other day — he teaches legal writing around the world — and, very, very respected man, he said I just got a factum that was written by your son, John. John comes to the Court of Appeal often, not in front of me so I never get to see him. He said it’s the single best factum I have read in my life. The kid’s good. He comes home every night at 5 o’clock and he helps cook the dinner and draw the bath and read the stories and finish up with the laundry and stuff. And at nine o’clock at night he may work for a couple of hours and he’ll get up at 5 and he works hard. But there’s no distinction between him and his wife in terms of who does the home stuff. No distinction whatsoever. That’s what’s changed. Most men now get that. Not everybody, but most of them. In my time as a young mother, I didn’t know any men who ever made a bed.

UV: Do you think there are any more institutional changes that you’d like to see?

Probably. It’s been so long since I’ve been inside a firm. I think they’re really trying hard. My husband — my current husband — who’s just wonderful — he’s a businessman, but he’s a bencher at the Law Society so he thinks he’s a lawyer. Nobody’s had the heart to tell him he’s not. He’s a very important and valuable bencher because he’s smart and he cares about the legal profession but he can look at it objectively. I mention his name because the Law Society for the fifteen years Seymour’s been a bencher — he’s the longest serving bencher they’ve ever had — he’s inside and discussing the various initiatives that the Law Society’s trying to encourage on that very point. And [he] knows what the law firms are doing on that issue. A lot of firms are offering part-time work, flexible hours, being more generous in terms of maternity and paternity leave. That’s what they’re doing on the surface.

I think — I don’t just think, I know — that a lot of the big-name serious litigators, most of whom are men, still look at women in the law firm differently. You’ve got to understand, part of it is reality. They know that a lot of women are going to have children, and they’re going to be gone for a while, and then come back, and for the last bit of time when you’re winding down and going on maternity leave you’re not as productive and then you’re a year away and when you come back you’re not as productive when you’re getting back to speed and then you’re gone again. And it puts more pressure on the guys who are there. And so I think the real issue from a practical perspective is how do you deal with that part of it? I understand why women want to take the time to go on maternity leave. I understand the impact that has on a firm. It’s a lot more pressure on the guys who are staying there. It’s a medical issue; it’s biological.

So will there ever be total equality? I don’t know. That one issue will always be an issue. But will attitudes develop and people respect the contribution that women make in that sense more than they are now? I hope so. But on a practical level they are doing things in terms of flexible hours and part-time and kinds of assignments and partnership opportunities and maternity leave and so forth. Progress has been made in those areas.

UV: On a broader level, do you think that the social dynamics of legal practice affects access to justice for the broader community? Do you think that’s visible to the larger community when they’re looking at the legal profession and the justice profession?

You know as well as I do that more than 50% of law students are women. And a lot going through Bar Ad are women. And I sit up on stage during Calls to the Bar and I see all these bright women and the awards they’re getting, and I think that’s great.

So I think there’s a perception there that women are doing well in the legal profession, way more than in business. What’s happening though is men and women are leaving law, but women are leaving faster than men. Men are leaving law too, for other reasons. But women are leaving at a greater rate. I don’t know what the public thinks of that. I think the fact of justice as far as the public is concerned, the issue is more diversity, ethnic diversity, than it is a male-female issue. I think that people think that men lawyers, women lawyers, it’s all the same.

UV: Do you have a proudest moment from your career? Or a highlight you think students would want to hear about?

My proudest moment, this should come as no surprise, was M v H. There’s kind of like a backstory to M v H.

I hadn’t thought about the start of M v H for a while, and it kind of makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. When I was appointed, I volunteered to go into family law for the first three months of my judicial assignment. I thought it would be an easy first step into being a judge, because it kind of scared me a bit.

So six days I’d been a judge, and these two women lawyers, Mary Eberts and Martha McCarthy, come in and they’re making arrangements for a motion to be argued. They said, “We’re making this motion for support.” I said, “I bet you I can do that.” They said, “That’s fine, but there’s a bit of a wrinkle.” I said, “What’s that?” How hard can interim support be, right? They said, “Well, both of them are women.” And the Family Law Act at the time said that to be common law and to have access to our courts, you could be a member of a common law relationship but it had to be heterosexual. So, in those days, with case management, once a judge touched a file, it was your file. So, a major constitutional issue had landed in my lap six days into my judicial career. Perfect.

So that was 1993. And it took until July of 1995 for the constitutional argument actually to be heard. Because there were all kinds of interim steps and other things that were going on. It was a particularly demanding time in my life because I had one sister, and she was between 1993 and 1995 battling breast cancer. She died July 1, 1995 and I heard the argument in M v H July the 23rd.

I was not in a very good space, to say the least. And it was a big deal argument. And the provincial government, part of the reason it was so delayed — initially the NDP was in power and they supported the change in legislation and then the provincial government changed and the Conservatives came in and they refiled and opposed it. So all of that took time. And it was this big political hot potato. I was a new judge and I had some personal issues I was dealing with. So I heard the argument and I closed my bench book. And then I dealt with some of the personal issues with my family.  And it was about four months later that I opened my book again to start to write. And I couldn’t read my writing, because I was just… Anyway so I had to construct the argument and write this.

I released the decision in February of 1996 and got on the plane to go to New Brunswick to visit my son who was in university. And the next day: the Globe and Mail, front page, like “Lunatic Judge” — didn’t quite say that, but it was close. And I was getting threats. People were upset. And I was getting law professors — one from Western, wrote this big op-ed about how he would fail his first-year law student if he or she ever wrote anything like… It was just awful; it was quite vicious. I had protection. It was just ridiculous, right?

I started to get extra anxious because it was a risky decision not only to say it was unconstitutional but then to rewrite the legislation. Activist judges, you know what we’re like. And I wasn’t confident I was thinking as clearly as I would like, with the issues that were going on. So I waited for the Court of Appeal, and, 2-1, they upheld me. Justice Finlayson wrote a scathing dissent, scathing. And it went to Ottawa, and it was unanimous that they upheld me. And really  it’s not about me — obviously I took personal pride in doing what I did but I think other judges would have done the same thing.

But to be so fortunate to be at that place at that time and to have a chance to play that kind of role in such an important first step in the development of Canada as an open society that embraces equality at all levels was a gift. Really a gift. And I have presided over four gay weddings, and I shouldn’t even call them that anymore — because they’re just weddings and I’ve got to stop it! And three of them were big deal weddings. The prime minister was at two of them — Harper. And at the request of the couple who got married I was asked, in the course of the wedding ceremony, to talk about M v H, and how as a country we should be proud, we should be celebrating the fact that we’ve made such strides. And now we don’t even think about it. I literally have brought people to tears — and applause. And once again I say it’s not about me — I have to think every judge who picked up the case would’ve done the exact same thing. It’s just I was so lucky to have that chance. It’s a real source of pride for me. And I love doing all weddings, including same sex weddings.

But I’ll give you one more case that’s one of my favourites. Nobody would know about it. And I could sit here until next Friday with my stories — that’s one of the great things about being a judge, you’ve just got endless stories.

Mr. Iqbal was from Pakistan — Muslim. He had an MBA, and was a member of the Karachi stock exchange, but he decided to move his family to Canada, because he thought it was a safer community and more opportunities and so forth. But the deal was he had to own a business and employ at least two Canadians within twenty-four months to stay in Canada. So he bought a travel agency and was defrauded. So that took up time and money — he’s running out of both. He bought a coffee shop and gas bar in a strip mall in Scarborough. But he didn’t know it was an area plagued by Tamil gangs. So he had no business. And he was now up against the wall, and he was going to get sent back to Pakistan, losing all this money, and losing the respect and the face and all that, having to return back after this great opportunity had been lost. So he got very depressed, and, 2 o’clock in the morning – strip mall had eight other little establishments, 2 o’clock in the morning no one was there, he took gas from his gas bar went into the coffee shop, poured it all around, in order to set fire to it and get insurance money. That was the plan. The place blew up; the entire strip mall was destroyed. He was very badly injured. He was in a medically induced coma for months. He lost his ears, he lost most of his skin, he came very close to death.

He plead guilty to eight counts of arson. The issue before me — I was a trial judge at the time — it was called a Gardiner hearing. The Crown wanted to use as an aggravating factor the fact that he had struck the match and set the place afire. The defence said, “That’s not what happened.” His testimony was that at the very last minute he changed his mind, realized how ridiculous, stupid, the whole thing was, and was leaving, not having struck the match, and a pilot light mixed with the fumes from the gas and the place exploded. He was still guilty, he was still going to be sentenced, but he would receive a higher sentence if he had actually struck the match. So we had a six or seven day trial on that issue, because we had expert evidence and so forth.

Mr. Iqbal had been very badly burned and he was very disabled. But he and his wife and three kids were there every day. But he had to sit right up beside the witness who was testifying, because he couldn’t hear, because his ears had been burned off in the explosion.

The main Crown witness was the owner of the strip mall who had lost everything, he was under-insured. His name was Mr. Schwartz. Mr. Iqbal was a very religious Muslim. Mr. Schwartz was a very religious Jew and wore all of the traditional very religious Jewish attire. And so when Mr. Schwartz came up to testify I had these two men within two feet of me. The Crown was asking Mr. Schwartz questions about the impact of the fire on him and his family. And Mr. Schwartz was not cooperating with the Crown, so the Crown was getting frustrated, and finally he said “Mr. Schwartz, why are you not answering my questions?” Mr. Schwartz looked over at Mr. Iqbal, and he takes this gnarly old finger, and he says, “This man,” — and he looks at the Crown, he looks up at me — and he says, “This man has suffered enough.”

And I thought how do I thank this man for the opportunity to experience that moment of compassion? How could I possibly do that? I carry it around with me every single day.

I’ve got lots of stories, I’ve got others that are close. So, yes, M v H had significant jurisprudential impact on the country. But that one… is as big a case to me as M v H was for different reasons. Twenty-five years as a judge, I’ve been so fortunate to meet so many incredible people. And some of them have been prostitutes and some of them have been drug addicts, and some of them have been business people, and some of them have been homeless. People I wouldn’t normally meet in the life I lead. I’ve been so enriched by them.

UV: Wow.

JE: Pretty cool, eh?

UV: What was your favourite course in law school? Your least favourite?

JE: There’s a wonderful litigator by the name of Chris Paliare, who’s got a great law firm now called Paliare Roland. He and Ian Scott, who is also a very senior litigator who became Attorney General, taught civil procedure.  And it was just, the personalities of the two guys, plus I like litigation.  So civil procedure, as boring as this answer is, in comparison to all my other answers which have been so fascinating, was my favourite course.  In addition to contracts, because I found my law professor, was a guy named John Swan, now Angela Swan, and John and I became good friends after law school and continue to be good friends today.  I went through his sex change with him as a friend, so that’s been amazing, that’s been an amazing experience.  But at the time I didn’t know all that was ahead. So yeah, contracts and civil procedure.

Criminal law is now probably an area of a particular interest of mine, but at the time I was in law school we didn’t have a Charter.  So it wasn’t as interesting.  The Charter has changed criminal law fundamentally, so I think had the Charter, the timing of the Charter been different, maybe I would’ve been drawn to criminal law.

Can you believe it? Oh my, she said civil procedure.  It was mainly the professors!

UV: What’s something about your non-legal life you think students would find interesting about you?

JE: Well, I am a Canadian Champion show jumper. Do you know what that means?  Until two years ago when I had my final, final, final, accident, I competed very seriously jumping horses over jumps.  And I was very good at it.  And it was a big part of my life that gave me balance, it was something that I did outdoors, I met different kinds of people, it was competitive, it was with animals, which I love.

So I went around the country and I competed, I competed at the Royal Winter Fair, all those great things.  And then, five years ago, my horse stumbled in a competition.  I broke my neck and my jaw and [had] a concussion and my lip came off, it was all a big mess.  So then, I got back on a horse, my kids were saying, “Mom don’t,” but anyway I did, and about two years ago I had another jump problem.  I was way up in the air and I knew it wasn’t going to be good, so I remembered that the last time landing on my head had been quite bad.  So I put my hands out, and I destroyed my wrists and hands and arms, and it was mainly my left one which is a problem because I’m left handed.

That was kind of, until two years ago, and it’s been hard for me not to do it anymore because I really…. I think when you do something that’s this intense and carries this kind of responsibility and this much work, for me, anyway, whether it’s cooking or ballroom dancing or golf – for me it was animals, and horses, and being outside.  Losing that has been a big deal, for me to kind of adjust to not being able to have that part of my life anymore.

So I’m searching. (laughs) I’m taking cooking lessons.  I went to Pickton last weekend and learned how to make homemade pasta! Now, who would ever do that? Why wouldn’t you just go and buy it? (laughs)  But I do take ballroom dancing lessons with my husband, and we play competitive bridge, and I play tennis, and things like that.  I think it’s just important to find time to have other things going in your life, because this stuff can be quite consuming.