Friday, July 18, 2014

Valin v. Langlois: Thumbs Up

Messrs. Bush and Gore were not the first to see the benefits of high-priced legal counsel when fighting over elected office. But the Judicial Committee in the 1870s at least was smarter than the SCOTUS about staying out.

Valin and Langlois were competing candidates for the riding of Montmorency in a long ago federal election. The 1874 Dominion Controverted Elections Act told such disputing candidates to take their petitions to the provincial superior courts. After losing on the merits, M. Valin complained that the provincial superior court could not have any such jurisdiction, because the "Administration of Justice in the Province, including the Constitution, Maintenance and Organization of Provincial Courts..." was vested in the provinces by section 92 (14) of the BNA Act. Our learned friend, and treasonous secessionist, Mr. Benjamin represented M. Valin before the Committee. He tried to persuade them that the Feds would have to create their own special federal court to hear such petitions, as they could do under s. 101 of the BNA Act.

The Committee ruled that s. 92 (14) did not agree. If Parliament had legislative authority (as it clearly did over federal election disputes), then it could choose whether to vest adjudicative jurisdiction in the provincial courts or in specially created federal ones. It didn't have to refer federal questions to federal courts.

This preserved our (almost) unitary judicial system, in which provincially-organized but federally-appointed trial courts are subject to provincial appellate courts and then the Supreme Court of Canada. This is a jolly good thing because it reduces the amount of jurisdictional craziness we have to deal with, and means our Supreme Court has to deal with some real, provincial law issues from time-to-time.

So thumbs up.

Case Comment of Valin v. Langlois (1879), 5 A.C. 115 (J.C.P.C.)

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