The following article borrows from his obituary in The Globe and Mail. “Justice Walsh graduated from Victoria College, University of Toronto with a BA, and from Osgoode Hall Law School with an LLB. Justice Walsh was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1950 and practiced law with his father, until the latter was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1958. Justice Walsh was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1960 and continued to practice law, with an emphasis on family law.”
In 1978, Justice Walsh was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario where he was immediately put in charge of the Family Law Division. At the time, spousal support was still called alimony and a woman’s entitlement to support depended on English law as it existed before Confederation. All divorces had to be heard in court and trials lasted weeks. There was an enormous backlog of cases waiting to be heard.
Justice Walsh, together with Justice Gertrude Speigel, was at the forefront of the work to simplify, expedite, and humanize family law. Gowns largely disappeared, and litigants, lawyers, and judges met informally. Discussions, offers, and settlement began to occur more frequently as family law belatedly entered the 20th Century.
Known as the ‘dean’ of the family law Bar, Justice Walsh’s philosophy was: resolution where possible; if not, timely adjudication. His objective was to reduce the cost of resolving family differences and issues, including the direct cost to the litigant and the indirect cost to the taxpayer, all of which had to be done without in any way reducing the quality or caliber of justice and the availability and timeliness of justice in the community. In his honour, the country’s first family law moot competition, the Walsh Family Law Moot, was held in Toronto in 2013 and it continues to be held annually with attendance growing every year.
As written in The Law Times, “It is only fitting that the moot is named after former Justice George Walsh, a pioneer in family law. Walsh was the leader of the family law division of the Toronto region’s Superior Court of Justice and very involved in family law reform and alternative dispute resolution. He developed a team approach to adjudicating family law cases that was the envy of every other jurisdiction. For example, he was a pioneer in early case management. He also helped establish the first mediation service at the Superior Court of Justice. It is only apt, then, that the establishment of a moot to try to encourage law students to choose family law would acknowledge Walsh’s work.”
The Walsh Family Law Moot and Negotiation Competition is named to recognize the outstanding contribution made by Justice Walsh to the development of family law in the province of Ontario.
The Negotiation Competition, initiated by the Superior Court of Justice, was added in 2015. The two competitions came together under the auspices of the AFCC-O in 2016. The AFCC-O is proud to host this annual event in honour of the late Justice George Walsh’s legacy.
Provided by: Justice Philip Clay, OCJ, AFCC-O Board Member