June 3, 2014 / 9:44 PM / in 3 years

Canada PM names new top court judge after previous pick rejected

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of a Quebec judge to the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday after the top court rejected his previous appointment earlier this year in a high-profile case.

A view shows the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Harper appointed Clement Gascon, who has served on the Quebec Court of Appeal since 2012. Before that, Gascon served as a judge at the lower Quebec Superior Court, starting in 2002.

In March, the Supreme Court ruled that Harper’s appointment of Federal Court of Appeal Justice Marc Nadon to a seat reserved for Quebec jurists on the top court was unconstitutional.[ID:nL2N0MI0PL]

The Supreme Court determined that though Nadon had been a member of the Quebec bar for two decades before becoming a federal judge, he was disqualified by the fact he was not a member of the bar when Harper appointed him.

Harper told Parliament that while he disagreed with the court’s decision, he would abide by its spirit and letter. Gascon’s appointment is effective June 9.

Opposition Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister, questioned on Twitter what the rush was, given that the Supreme Court does not sit until the fall.

The prime minister had put Nadon’s name to an all-party committee which considered his name under an oath of secrecy, but this time avoided that process. Parliamentary approval is not required in Canada, in contrast to the required Senate confirmation for appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As we are concerned about recent leaks from what was intended to be a confidential process, we are reviewing the process for future appointments,” Harper spokesman Jason MacDonald said. He also said the Liberals and the opposition New Democrats had repeatedly called for the seat to be filled quickly.

Opposition parties have said it was the government and not their members who violated the confidentiality of the process surrounding Nadon, by stating publicly what the opposition members’ positions had been on his appointment.

Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway and Eric Walsh

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