In Memoriam: The Honourable Madam Justice Joan Lax

Posted: 11/15/2013

Lax, Madam Justice Joan

In 1991, Joan L. Lax became an elected bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada. She was re-elected in 1995 and served until the 1st of January, 1996, when she was appointed a judge of the Ontario Superior Court.

Madam Justice Lax died suddenly on Nov. 4, 2013.

As a bencher, Madam Justice Lax served as a member, chair, or vice-chair on many committees, including the Women in the Legal Profession Committee (1991-6, vice-chair 1995), Clinic Funding Committee (1991-6, chair 1995), Legal Education Committee (1993-6), and the Equity in Legal Education and Practice Committee (vice-chair 1991-2).

“My memories of Joan as a bencher are that she was committed to achieving justice for the disadvantaged,” said former Law Society Treasurer E. Susan Elliott, LSM, who served as a bencher at the same time as Lax. “She did not shirk from difficult issues and hard work—both of which were in abundance in the early ’90’s! She had a great sense of humour. She was a lot of fun and was a compassionate person who could make everyone feel included and special.”

While a bencher, Madam Justice Lax stated, in 1995: “I take pride in the contributions I have made through my service on numerous committees, in particular, as chair of the Clinic Funding Committee. I take pride in the establishment of the Women’s Family Law Centre and the African-Canadian Legal Services Clinic. … Through these contributions, I have helped make our profession a more just and accessible profession for all.”

Lax began her professional life as a high school teacher before entering Osgoode Hall Law School in the early 1970s. She was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1978 and joined Weir & Foulds where she had articled. While there, she helped develop one of the first maternity-leave policies in the profession.

She was a founding member of CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario), a course instructor of the Law Society’s Bar Admission course. In 1986, she returned to the world of academia when she joined the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law, as the assistant dean and director of admissions until she was appointed to the bench.

“Her commitment to social justice was real and the results she achieved both at the Law Society and on the bench have made a real difference in the daily lives of many, many people,” said Elliott.

Madam Justice Lax is survived by Clifford Lax of Lax O’Sullivan Scott Lisus LLP and her family.