[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of written decisions, reaching a low of 59 decisions in 2006 compared to 144 in 1990, according to statistics gathered by the Toronto Globe and Mail. The court has steadily decreased the number of written rulings, but still averaged 89 to 90 rulings throughout the last decade, marking a drastic decrease in 2006 alone. Some observers says the numbers indicate that judges on the court are less productive, while others praise the decrease in rulings, arguing that the decline allows judges to focus more on important cases. Other theories advanced to explain the drop include the hypothesis that Canadian trial judges have produced a greater number of accurate decisions, effectively reducing the number appeals and that judges on the bench have worked harder to reach a consensus and reduced the number of dissenting opinions. Some scholars also believe that the retirement of two judges known for their high number of written opinions - Justice Claire L'Heureux-Dube and Justice Frank Iacobucci [official profiles]- has contributed to the decline in rulings. The Globe and Mail has more.
The decrease in Canadian high court opinions parallels analogous decreases in both the US Supreme Court and the UK House of Lords [official website] in recent years. Last month, the New York Times reported that the US Supreme Court has heard oral arguments in 40 percent fewer cases than in preceding years [JURIST report], asserting that a lower number of appeals and a sharp ideological divide on the court have contributed to the decline.