Instructor(s): Robert J. Sharpe

Course Location: Please see the "Intensive Course Schedule" under Schedules and Timetables (

This section of this course is offered on campus, for students who can attend in person. In order to safeguard the health and safety of students, there is a possibility that all sections of this class will convert to a remote format for all or part of the term. To enrol in this course all students must meet or exceed the tech requirements for enrolment in University of Toronto courses, which can be found here [].

Note: Attendance at intensive courses is mandatory for the duration of the course.

The seminar is intended to provide students with an inside look at the process of judicial decision-making at the appellate level. We will consider the nature and extent of legal uncertainty. What is the extent of legal uncertainty and what are the implications of legal uncertainty for the judicial process? Do judges approach their task of deciding cases by assuming that there are “right answers” to every legal question? Although it is well-established that appellate judgments create precedents that are binding on lower courts, the issue of judicial law-making remains controversial. What is the reach and what are limits of the judicial law-making role? We will look at the nature of reasoning used by lawyers and judges, examine its distinctive features, discuss the role of intuition or the “judicial hunch” and consider the institutional factors that structure and discipline judicial reasoning. Are judges expected or allowed to be compassionate or must they always follow the letter of the law? Finally, we will discuss the essential attributes of judicial independence and impartiality and how the law attempts to ensure that judges display those qualities.

Students will be evaluated based on a final paper of 2500 to 3000 words. Papers must be delivered to the Records Office by 4:00 p.m. on February 1, 2021.
Academic year
2020 - 2021

At a Glance

Second Term



20 JD


In Class:

Monday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 - 4:00 pm
Tuesday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 - 4:00 pm
Wednesday, January 6, 2020: 1:30 - 4:00 pm
Thursday, January 7, 2020: 1:30 - 4:00 pm
Friday, January 8, 2020: 1:30 - 3:30 pm