Will the Supreme Court open its doors to Mr. Justice Marc Nadon? We’ll find out tomorrow, when after months of deliberation the high court rules on whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s appointee is legally qualified to take the bench.
Nominated in September to fill one of the Supreme Court’s three Quebec seats, Nadon was sworn in early in October — only to step aside when his appointment was decried by Quebec’s National Assembly and challenged in Federal Court. That’s when the federal government asked Justice Nadon’s prospective colleagues to rule on his eligibility. (Subsequently, the Court announced that until the case was decided, he would be barred from entering the building.)
Serious stuff, this, with implications that could keep on reverberating well beyond the Court. It’s enough, almost, to make you nostalgic for that simpler time when Judge Nadon’s biggest worry was fumbling his hockey past in a televised hearing before MPs on Parliament Hill. That was October 2, of course, when he told members of a Commons Committee that he’d been drafted by the Detroit Red Wings at age 14 when, no, in fact, he hadn’t.
“I certainly didn’t lie,” he told The Huffington Post next day, offering a tangled explanation of what he’d really meant, promising that he’d be much more careful when it came to rendering Supreme judgments when — if? — the time came.
Without knowing how it’s going to go tomorrow — and, in legal parlance, without prejudice — the prime minister has to be planning for all eventualities. Herewith, in the spirit of chipping in, a non-definitive list of lawyers who were, definitely, drafted by NHL teams.
• Rod Pacholzuk, d/lw, University of Michigan, picked 202nd overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1978 draft. Never played an NHL game. Law degree from the University of Windsor; civil litigation lawyer with FH&P in Kelowna, B.C. Not much to in the archives on regarding his hockey career — as a rookie for Michigan in 1975 he was projected “to see a lot of ice time.”
• Mike Gillis, lw, Kingston Canadians, picked 5th overall by the Colorado Rockies in 1978. Played 246 games for Colorado and Boston, registering 76 points. Graduated law from Queen’s University. Former hockey agent, now (somewhat beleaguered) GM of the Vancouver Canucks. The Hockey Hall of Fame calls him both “a decent role player” of whom more was expected coming out of junior and “an outstanding two-way worker.”
• Dirk Rueter, d, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, picked 104th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1980 draft. Never played an NHL game. Graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School; corporate lawyer specializing in structured finance, McCarthy Tétrault, Toronto. Possible problem for his judicial hopes that he had a couple of seasons in junior with 100+ penalty minutes?
• Jeff Jackson, lw, Brantford Alexanders, picked 28th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1983. Played 263 games for Toronto, New York Rangers, Quebec, and Chicago, scoring 86 points. Law degree from the University of Western Ontario, practiced with Heenan, Blaikie; now works as an agent for the Orr Hockey Group. “Not blessed with natural scoring ability,” says the Hall of Hockey Fame, but still: “used his speed and size to drive to the net, dig the puck out of the corners, and check the best forwards on the opposition.”
Whether they’d be interested in a job on the Supreme Court or not, the big problem with all of these candidates is that the three seats set aside for Quebec are need to filled by superior trial or appellate court judges or current members of the Quebec bar. Given the general lack of draftees from the province who’ve gone on to legal careers, would the Court expand the limits, maybe, to include Montreal Canadiens alumni? Would that work for everybody? We might need a ruling from the Federal Court on that, but just in case, a couple of Hab goaltending prospects:
• Dave Elenbaas, g, Cornell University, drafted 62nd by Montreal in 1972. Law degree from the University of Toronto, partner at Macmillan specializing in employment and labour relations law. Never played a regular-season NHL game, apparently, though according the Benchwarmers blog, he was a back-up for at least 29 games. He was very impressive in a September, 1976 Forum exhibition win, 7-1 over the Bruins, said The Montreal Gazette. Another Cornell grad had recommended him — as a man and a goalie — to Habs’ scout Ron Caron. Against Boston, Elenbaas made some outstanding saves — although, he said, “I might have made them look a little harder than they really were. I was little nervous so I went down a little quicker than I should have.”
• Ken Dryden, g, another Cornell grad, drafted 14th overall by the Bruins in 1964. His law degree was from McGill University. He played 397 NHL games plus another 112 in the playoffs, won a Calder and a Conn Smythe, five Vézinas, six Stanley Cups, ascended to the Hall of Fame in 1983. “Dryden was better than we had ever dreamed,” said Bobby Orr in 1971 when the Canadiens upset the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs before going on to win the Cup. That was also the year that Boston’s Phil Esposito called him a “thieving giraffe.”
Finally, a couple of former NHL players do have experience as international jurists, although neither one earned a law degree: Rons Duguay (1980) and Greschner (1988) both served as judges at the Miss Universe Pageant, in South Korea and Japan, respectively.