The Grade 12 Law programme at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) recorded a first this month --- part of a series of new experiential learning opportunities presented this academic year.
The Law Practicum, featuring six themed-sessions inside prominent Toronto-based law firms and led by professional lawyers is well underway. Designed to bolster curriculum teaching, it is offered to students with a particular interest in law and is facilitated by the Community Partnerships Programme. The practicum culminates this spring (May) with a visit to the Supreme Court in Ottawa.
This month, every Grade 12 Law student got a rare glimpse.
“They were afforded an opportunity to attend an actual appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal at Osgoode Hall, downtown Toronto,” says Kevin Shaughnessy ‘00. “Following the appeal hearing, Justice Peter Lauwers asked the boys to stay behind to allow them to ask questions and learn more about what happens behind the scenes of an appeal. The boys were then permitted to tour Osgoode Hall, and look in at the other courtrooms, including courtroom 2 which dates back to the early 1830s,” he says.
Mr. Shaughnessy describes the visit in this Q & A:
1. How did this visit of the Ontario Court of Appeal at Osgoode Hall come to be?
Justice Bryan Shaughnessy ’68, OSM, arranged with Justice Peter Lauwers of the Ontario Court of Appeal (and former guest Justice for the SMCS Moot Court Competition) an opportunity for the Grade 12 Law students to attend an actual appeal hearing at historic Osgoode Hall, the home of the Ontario Court of Appeal.
2. What was the impetus for this visit?
As a culminating task, grade 12 Law students were instructed on how to prepare and write a legal factum to be used in the annual SMCS Moot Court Competition. This year’s case scenario dealt with reasonable limits, freedom of expression, equality rights, and application of the charter under sections 1, 2(b), 15, and 32 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, respectively. The competition was adjudicated by Justice Shaughnessy (Superior Court of Ontario, SMC ‘68, OSM), Justice Cathy Mocha (Ontario Court of Justice, mother of Riley Mocha ‘14 and Dillon Mocha ‘17), and Justice Hugh O’Connell (Superior Court of Justice).
The final saw grade 12 Law students and co-council Anthony Ametrano and Sebastian Labora (Appellants) argue against their friends, co-council Daniel Bonanno and Joseph Infusino (Respondents). The judges ruled unanimously in favor of the Respondents, and awarded Joseph Infusino with the Shaughnessy Cup, as the top legal advocate. This particular Moot was described by Justice Shaughnessy as one of, if not the best, SMCS Moot Court Competitions.
3. How was the Court of Appeal visit aligned to the curriculum?
The visit served as an experiential learning opportunity for all grade 12 Law students, following their studies in class about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code of Canada, the trial process, legal procedures, legal argumentation, legal research, and legal writing / factum writing. It served as a culmination following their participation in the class-wide SMC Moot Court Competition, providing insight into what an actual appeal looks like at the Ontario Court of Appeal.
4. What struck you overall from a teacher’s perspective about this opportunity and the student’s response and feedback?
This marked a historic moment for the Law Programme, as part of the SMCS History Department. This was the first time students from St. Michael’s College School were afforded an opportunity to observe an actual appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal, Canada’s second highest court behind the Supreme Court of Canada.
The students were provided with the relevant appeal materials ahead of time, including the overall trial summary as well as the Factums from both legal parties. They raved about their experience the entire way back to school, and continued to do so for several days after our visit. In fact, within minutes of returning to school campus, I received positive feedback from other staff members, as clearly the young men continued to boast about this amazing opportunity.
While the vast majority of students taking Law had previously expressed an interest in pursuing a career in Law, it is obvious that this visit has only reinforced this desire for some, while igniting a future career in Law for others.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario hears more than 1,000 appeals and upwards of 1,000 motions annually.
Learn more about our Community Partnerships Programme.