Volume 97, Issue 3
Thursday, June 5, 2003

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The Dr. is in - and on the bench

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

Associate Chief Justice of Ontario Dennis O'Connor was conferred an honorary degree at Westerns 280th Convocation on Tuesday, allowing the oft-decorated judge to finally put "Dr." before his name.

An associate professor of law at Western from 1976 to 1980, O'Connor is most often recognized as the judge appointed to conduct a public inquiry into the tainted water disaster in Walkerton.

O'Connor spoke with The Gazette about his professional success and personal experience within the Canadian justice system.

What first motivated you to get into law?

My father was a lawyer and I think that had some influence. Also Arthur Maloney, for whom I articled and who is quite a noted criminal lawyer, I came to know and admire him.

Would you consider yourself a role model?

Certainly Mr. Maloney was a role model for me and the way he balanced the practice of law, his commitment to the public and service and the high ethics that he brought to law. I think there are a lot of good role models in the legal profession for younger people who are joining the profession. Whether they would pick me to be one of those, I wouldn't comment

What advice would you give to pre-law students?

I would suggest people who are considering going into law school obtain as broad and well-rounded educations as they can before going. I think a broad education for a professional – including law students – remains an asset for every one's life. I think it leads to a happier, generally more balanced life. It provides relief from the day to day stress of one's occupation or profession. My observation of others I've dealt with is that people who are well-rounded and have a variety of interests tend to lead more content, satisfied lives.

What did you think of your time here at Western?

I enjoyed my time here enormously and I particularly enjoyed the time in the classroom. I still, while I'm on the bench, [am] invited to speak to different groups from time to time. My absolute favourite is to go to law schools to speak to law students and to give classes. It's something I do enjoy enormously.

What does your personal or professional future hold?

Its hard to say at this stage in my career, whether or not where I am now will probably be the final stop. I'm just coming up to my 62nd birthday. The number of years may dictate this as my final resting place. I have been fortunate to have had a number of different types of careers, all within the legal profession.

In your experience, are TV shows such as The Practice or Law and Order relatively realistic?

Generally speaking, when one watches courtroom drama in television or movies, they're not particularly realistic. Some are though – I think that's maybe not fair on my part [laughs]. It varies widely, I think.


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