The Ontario Court of Appeal has formally reprimanded a trial judge for repeatedly failing to give reasons for her decisions in a timely manner. The reprimand came after an appeal for a new trial in a domestic violence case filed in 2014. The judge acquitted the defendant, stating from the bench that she had been left with reasonable doubt as to his guilt. But the judge never provided written reasons for her decision–as was required–even after being asked repeatedly for them as late as September 2016. Citing several previous violations of the same judicial responsibility, the Court of Appeals concluded that “[t]he trial judge’s failure to give reasons, despite her repeated promises to do so, has frustrated the proper administration of justice.”
Whereas juries need not provide any justification for their decisions, it is part and parcel of the judicial role. The legitimacy of a judicial decision rests less on its ultimate accuracy and more on its ability to state principled reasons for the result in a clear and comprehensible way.