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Ottawa Citizen - Esteemed legal expert sworn in as Ontario judge


By Andrew Seymour

One of Canada's pre-eminent legal minds was sworn in as Ottawa's newest judge Friday.

The former University of Ottawa law professor, author and esteemed criminal lawyer David Paciocco had the red sash of the Ontario Court of Justice placed over his left shoulder by his cousin, Ontario Court Justice Elaine Deluzio, during a ceremony attended by a who's-who of Canada's legal community, including Supreme Court judges.

Paciocco, considered one of the country's foremost experts in the law of evidence, told a packed courtroom he was "honoured and humbled" to have been chosen for the job.

"Few are given the power to make decisions that have such a dramatic effect on the lives of others," Paciocco said, adding he hoped he would be able to put his lifetime of learning and teaching the law to use with a more visible and positive impact on the community he lives in.

"I have come to appreciate what a rare privilege it is to be invited into the lives of Canadians at their most difficult moments to help broker solutions and play a small part in offering the public a sense of justice," he said.

Paciocco, was called to the bench in August, but was only sworn in Friday after spending a few weeks shadowing other Ottawa judges.

Lawyer Michael Edelson, who has worked with Paciocco for more than two decades, described him as a man of integrity with impeccable credentials. Edelson said Paciocco was both fair and compassionate and had an understanding of the law second to none. Edelson said Paciocco was not an "ivory tower academic."

"He has all the qualities you want in a judge," Edelson said.

"Prodigious intellect, great energy, remarkable work habits, a great sense of humour and a real insight into human nature. He gets people and understands how people work. He understands the system extremely well."

Among the four books Paciocco has authored is The Law of Evidence, which he co-authored with Lee Steusser. The book is used by judges to assist in resolving issues relating to the rules of proof.

He also wrote the award-winning Getting Away with Murder: The Canadian Criminal Justice System, which used humour to help demystify the Canadian court process and how it works.

Paciocco is also an internationally recognized expert in criminal law and procedure, having published more than 100 articles. Paciocco's work and research has been quoted more than 50 times in Supreme Court decisions.

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Paciocco has worked as both a Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer.

He was a member of the legal team that defended the Red Cross in the tainted blood scandal in the 1980s and was recently working on appeals for Rwandan war crimes being heard in Tanzania.

Paciocco was also a member of then-Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien's defence team and took part in legal arguments in the case of Citizen reporter Juliet O'Neill, whose home was searched by the RCMP in relation to leaks in relation to the Maher Arar case. A judge later struck down a section of the Security of Information Act, finding it was unconstitutionally vague and an infringement of freedom of expression.

"He was invaluable to our defence team," said lawyer Richard Dearden, who was co-counsel with Paciocco on that case. "The bar has lost a great counsel, the University of Ottawa has lost a fabulous teacher, and the judiciary have gained a brilliant legal mind."

A father of three, Paciocco married his high school sweetheart, now an Ottawa high school teacher. He has taught evidence, criminal law and trusts at the University of Ottawa since 1982. Paciocco holds a master's degree in law from Oxford and an honorary doctorate of law from Laurentian University.

His swearing in had its lighter moments, with speakers teasing the 56-year-old about his youthful appearance, musical talents and golf game before poking fun at him for online student reviews that gave him a "red chili pepper" for his good looks.

Speakers also lauded his "stel-lar" career and humility, sense of humour and lengthy list of accomplishments.

"Your C.V. is too heavy to carry into this courtroom," joked Ottawa's Crown attorney, Vikki Bair.

Paciocco was one of two University of Ottawa law professors appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice.

Former Ottawa assistant Crown attorney Jonathan Brunet was sworn in Thursday in Cornwall, where he will be presiding. Brunet prosecuted Senator Raymond Lavigne for fraud and breach of trust. Lavigne was later sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence and ordered to make a $10,000 donation.

Brunet taught criminal law in French and English part-time at the University of Ottawa since 1997. He also taught at Carleton University.

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