Monday, February 4, 2019

Shaun O’Brien '98Alumna Shaun O’Brien '98, General Counsel and Executive Director at Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), has been appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Toronto.

Justice Shaun O’Brien was born in Montreal, raised in Calgary, and for many years has lived in Toronto with her husband and three children. She graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. (Honours) in English and received her LL.B. from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, in 1998. She clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Strayer at the Federal Court of Appeal and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2000. 

Justice O’Brien began her litigation career at Blakes LLP. In 2002, she joined Cavalluzzo LLP, where she practiced for 16 years in a wide range of areas, including professional regulation, civil litigation, labour law, administrative law, defamation, and constitutional law. Justice O’Brien focused on systemic human rights and Charter challenges, including a challenge on behalf of nurses in recovery from mental illnesses and a challenge to the repeal of the federal long gun registry on behalf of women experiencing violence. She also argued complex professional regulatory discipline cases, often involving sexual misconduct or incompetence. In addition, she was lead counsel in a successful Supreme Court challenge to limits on voting rights for Canadian citizens living outside the country (Frank v. Attorney General of Canada).

Most recently, Justice O’Brien was the Executive Director and General Counsel of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). She represented LEAF in several interventions related to the equality rights of women and girls and made submissions to Parliamentary committees. Justice O’Brien is the past president of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which provides services to women experiencing violence. She has also prioritized mentoring young women lawyers throughout her career. 

Justice O’Brien spends most of her free time with her family and close friends, often attending her children’s events and sporting activities. She is an avid reader and enjoys running, snowshoeing, paddle-boarding, yoga, tennis, and travel.