How Judges Decide

Lecture by Robert J Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal
Robert J Sharpe, Ontario Court of Appeal

Examining the twin phenomena of legal uncertainty and laws that sometimes produce unjust results, Justice Robert J Sharpe of the Ontario Court of Appeal concluded that both arose from an essential characteristic of the law itself, in which it had to be framed in terms of norms or standards with general application.

In his FLJS lecture ‘How Judges Decide’, Justice Sharpe said that while laws set standards, they didn’t decide specific cases, and this was where judges must use their skills, expertise, and exercise judgement. ‘That is the role of the judge: to interpret the standard and decide whether or not it applies to the facts of the case,’ he said.

Listen to the podcast for the hour lecture in full. The podcast includes an introduction by Denis Galligan, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford and Director of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society.