Law Society of Upper Canada

Law Society of Upper Canada

September 16, 2009 17:11 ET

Law Society Honours the Best of the Profession

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 16, 2009) - Nine lawyers who represent the highest level of achievement and commitment to serving society and the profession will receive awards from the Law Society of Upper Canada on September 23, 2009. The Law Society Medal, the Lincoln Alexander Award and the Laura Legge Award will be presented by Treasurer W. A. Derry Millar at a special ceremony at Osgoode Hall.

Established in 1985, the Law Society Medal is presented annually to outstanding Ontario lawyers whose service reflects the highest ideals of the profession. The award is given for outstanding service, whether in a particular area of practice, in the academic sector, or in some other professional capacity.

This year's Law Society Medal recipients are: Professor Nicholas Bala, George Biggar, Elizabeth C. Goldberg, James Douglas Grenkie, Q.C., Peter K. Hrastovec, Patricia D.S. Jackson and Susan M. Vella.

The Lincoln Alexander Award is presented to a lawyer who has demonstrated a commitment to the public and its well-being through community service. The award was created in 2002 in honour of the former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, The Honourable Lincoln Alexander, P.C., C.C., O. Ont., Q.C., in recognition of his dedication to the people of Ontario and the legal community. This year's recipient is Sandra Thomas.

The Laura Legge Award recognizes an Ontario woman lawyer who has exemplified leadership within the profession. The award was established in 2007 in honour of Laura Legge, O. Ont., Q.C., the first woman elected as a bencher of the Law Society and the first woman to serve as its Treasurer. This year's recipient is Janet A. Leiper.

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

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Biographical information about each award recipient is attached to this news release.


2009 Law Society Medal Recipients

Professor Nicholas Charles Matthew Bala, Kingston, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1982

Professor Bala is Canada's foremost authority on legal issues related to children, including youth criminal justice and children's evidence. His work has helped to make the legal system and the professionals who work in it more sensitive to the needs of children and families in crisis. He is recognized by his peers as an exceptional legal scholar and teacher.

Professor Bala graduated from the Queen's University Faculty of Law in 1977, and in 1980, he received his LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School. He is a highly regarded professor at Queen's University Faculty of Law, where he has taught since 1980. He was awarded the Queen's Law Students' Society Award for Teaching Excellence in 1993 and 1998. He also served as associate dean from 1994 to 1998 and from 2004 to 2005.

As a legal scholar, he has been published extensively in journals of law, psychology, social work and medicine. His teaching and research have been focused on issues relating to children, families and the justice system, particularly child witnesses, child abuse, young offenders, parental rights and responsibilities after divorce, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Bala has written or co-authored 15 books and over 130 articles and book chapters. He is a frequent speaker and, since 2007, has served as co-chair and presenter at the Law Society Family Law Summit. He has also acted as legal consultant to numerous organizations and government departments.

George Biggar, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1972

An advocate for the right of low-income Ontarians to access the justice system, George Biggar's work has helped define how legal aid is delivered in Canada. He practised criminal, family and civil law prior to joining Legal Aid Ontario in 1984, where he held several senior positions, and is now a special advisor to the president and CEO.

Among his many contributions to the justice system and the legal profession, he has worked on reforming the duty counsel system in the family and criminal courts of Ontario, designed, organized and taught the Bar Admission Course section on Legal Aid, initiated gender equality and non-discriminatory policies at Legal Aid Ontario, and designed, introduced and led Legal Aid's Family Settlement Conference Program, a groundbreaking mediation program which fully or partially settled nearly 3,000 cases a year in the 1990s and was the model for the Ontario Courts Family Mediation project. He has also served on the York County Legal Aid Area Committee. In 2008, the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada honoured him with the Legal Aid Recognition Award for his significant contributions to the ongoing development and improvement of legal aid.

Biggar's involvement in the community includes serving as a board member of the Surrey Place Centre, Surrey Place Centre Foundation, the Psychology Association of Canada and Oxfam Canada (Ontario). He also volunteers for Operation Springboard.

Elizabeth Goldberg, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1976

Elizabeth Goldberg's career has been characterized by excellence, leadership and commitment to the public interest. In her many roles with the provincial government, she provided leadership in developing legal positions on the Constitution of Canada, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in rendering legal advice during the SARS crisis, and in modernizing the legislation governing public service through the Public Service of Ontario Act, 2006.

Currently the chief executive officer of The Law Foundation of Ontario, she has held senior positions with the Ministry of the Attorney General, including chief constitutional counsel, Constitutional Branch (1991 to 2005), and with the Ministry of Government Services where she was executive lead, Public Service Legislation Project. She also served as a trustee of The Law Foundation of Ontario.

In 2006, in recognition of her contributions to public service, Goldberg was awarded the Amethyst Award, Ontario's highest honour for public servants. In addition to serving as a founding director and first president of the Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), she has also served on the boards of the Osgoode Hall Alumni Association, the Ontario Justice Education Network, and the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History. She has presented at numerous conferences, including conferences for the ALOC, the Department of Justice Canada, the Ontario Bar Association and Queen's University.

James Douglas Grenkie, Q.C., Morrisburg, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1970

J. Douglas Grenkie is recognized for his broad contribution to the profession and his community, through his work in family and criminal litigation, as well as commercial, municipal, estate and real estate law. He has been a part-time assistant crown attorney since 1970 and the federal prosecutor at Morrisburg Provincial Court for several years. He has also served as inquiry officer for the Ministry of the Attorney General.

Grenkie is an active member of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and is now a trustee of the Advancement of Legal Education and Research Trust (ALERT), the charitable arm of the OBA, as well as the director of the Foreign Conference Committee. He served on the OBA executive from 1980 to 1990, including as branch president from 1988 to 1989. Grenkie is a member of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee, and served as its chair from 1995-2001. He was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1980. He is also a member of the International Commission of Jurists.

Among his numerous community contributions, Grenkie has been a member of the Morrisburg and District Lions Club for over 30 years, president of the Dundas County Cancer Society, president of the Eastern District of the Cancer Society for the Ontario Division, and a member of the board of directors for Partners for Children in Development for over 20 years. He is currently serving as chair of the "Close to Home" fundraising campaign for the new Winchester District Memorial Hospital.

Peter K. Hrastovec, Windsor, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1984

Peter Hrastovec is a long-standing member of the Windsor bar, practising as a sole practitioner in employment and labour law and commercial litigation. He is recognized by his peers for his commitment to community service - particularly for his contributions to the overall betterment of Essex County and the city of Windsor.

During his career, he has authored many publications and given many lectures on behalf of the Law Society, Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Windsor Faculty of Law and other legal institutions. In 1998, he received the University of Windsor Alumni Award of Merit. He received the Charles J. Clark Award from the Essex Law Association, as well as the Clark Award from the University of Windsor in 1999.

Known as an energetic and active volunteer with many organizations, Hrastovec has made a significant contribution to his community. A lifelong resident of Windsor, he is past president of the Windsor Symphony Society, a past president of the Rotary Club of Windsor (1918), a past honorary co-chair of the local United Way Campaign, and a past chair, vice-chair, treasurer and board member of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Patricia D.S. Jackson, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1979

Patricia Jackson is one of Canada's senior trial and appellate counsel, with a broad litigation practice and significant expertise in class actions. She speaks and writes frequently on issues related to class action practice, defamation, advocacy and ethics, and has been lead counsel in a number of cases which have established important precedents in Canadian jurisprudence. She is a partner at Torys LLP and is recognized by her peers as an extraordinary teacher, mentor and role model.

Jackson is a member of the Advocates' Society, the Ontario and Canadian Bar Associations, and is a fellow and the Ontario chair of the American College of Trial Lawyers. She is also the vice-president and a board member of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the senior chair of the University of Toronto Tribunal, a former member of the Ontario Judicial Council, and a former director of the Legal Education and Action Fund.

As well, Jackson is a former director of the Advocates' Society and continues to contribute to the society's education programs. She was also commission counsel to the Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario and served as counsel to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly in the Inquiry Regarding Ministry of Health information.

Susan M. Vella, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1988.

Representing victims of sexual assault, institutional abuse, wrongful confinement and physical and mental cruelty, Susan Vella's legal practice demonstrates a fundamental commitment to advocacy on behalf of the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. She also represents many of Ontario's First Nations' People, as well as First Nations and Aboriginal organizations. Her Aboriginal rights practice focuses on treaty rights, Aboriginal rights and abuse claims.

As well, she served as commission counsel to the Ipperwash Inquiry and is a past president of the National Association of Women and the Law. Vella also worked on behalf of more than 200 survivors of the Grandview Training School for Girls to negotiate a precedent-setting creative settlement package with the Ontario government in the mid-1990s. She was a legal consultant to the Canada Law Commission regarding its report Restoring Dignity: Responding to Child Abuse in Canadian Institutions. She is also a former vice-chair of the Commercial Registrations Appeal Tribunal of Ontario, and a past member of council of the Canadian Bar Association - Ontario.

Vella has appeared at all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, with respect to precedent-setting cases in the areas of civil sexual assault and institutional liability. She gives many lectures about her field of law and has published numerous articles, and is the co-author of the textbook, Civil Liability for Sexual Abuse and Violence in Canada. She received the Advocate Society's Award of Justice in 2008 and is an associate partner at Rochon Genova LLP. She is known throughout the profession for her dedication and her strong sense of public responsibility and social justice.

2009 Lincoln Alexander Award Winner

Sandra Thomas, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1992

As the founding president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) in 1996, Sandra Thomas is a strong advocate for the advancement of diverse communities within the legal profession, and is committed to the principles of a multicultural society. She is also known for her support and mentorship of young lawyers and her dedication to community service.

Throughout her career, she has served on many committees and panels. She was an advisor to former Chief Justice R. Roy McMurtry on the Mayor's Panel on Community Safety from 2005 to 2007, and is a past regional co-chair of the Department of Justice's Advisory Committee on Visible Minorities. She is currently counsel with the Revenue Prosecutions Team at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

Thomas has dedicated many years of community service both within the profession and in the community at large, particularly with at-risk youth. She volunteers with the York-Westview Partnership at York University and is involved in the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education, a program aimed at stemming gang-related violence in the Jane-Finch Community. She has also assisted in organizing forums aimed at addressing urban violence and youth gangs.

Over the years, Thomas has received many awards, including the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal (2002), the CABL Award of Excellence (2006), and the Visions of Justice Award, from the Black Law Students Association of Canada (2000).

2009 Laura Legge Award Winner

Janet A. Leiper, Toronto, called to the Bar of Ontario in 1987

A commitment to public service and access to justice are the hallmarks of Janet Leiper's diverse professional career. Over the years, she has been a visiting professor in Public Interest Law at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and was responsible for implementing the school's public interest service requirement for LL.B. students. She served as chair of Legal Aid Ontario from 2004 to 2007, and is an alternate chair of both the Ontario and Nunavut Review Boards.

She has practised criminal law for more than 20 years and was the Toronto director of the Criminal Lawyers' Association of Ontario from 1993 to 1995 and provincial director from 1995 to 2001. She also has extensive experience with investigations, prosecutions and defence work on behalf of lawyers and the Law Society of Upper Canada, and has served as independent counsel to a number of regulated health professional colleges. She also spent seven years as section head of the Law Society's Bar admission course in criminal law, where she enjoyed working with Crown attorneys, defence counsel and Bar admission students.

Leiper holds a Master of Laws degree (2008), is a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law and serves on the Law Society's Certified Specialist Board. She has published numerous papers and given many lectures throughout her career.

She currently practises administrative and criminal law and was recently appointed as integrity commissioner for the City of Toronto. Leiper is recognized by her peers for her exemplary leadership, compassion and determination.

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