restricted access Choosing the Chief: Duality, Seniority, and Beyond

It is often suggested that there is a tradition of French/English (or possibly Quebec/non-Quebec) alternation in the selection of the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, a question that is of some practical importance as the current chief justice approaches the age of mandatory retirement. This essay questions the validity of this alleged tradition, suggesting that it is at best a recent development and in any event has considerably less explanatory capacity for the past selection of chief justices than an alternative tradition, that of simple seniority. The essay considers the relative plausibility of these two alternative traditions in light of the history of the Supreme Court, and then places both within the context of a broader range of the possible models, and the central values implied by each, that could govern the choice of a chief justice for a national high court.