Litigation partner Paul-Erik Veel recently reviewed Administrative Law in Practice: Principles and Advocacy co-authored by Lorne Sussin and Paliare Roland partner Emily Lawrence:
Administrative law is a profoundly fascinating area for scholars and theorists. It raises significant questions about the relationship between individuals and the state, the nature of the rule of law, and society’s fundamental conceptions of a fair process. For these reasons, many authors who attempt to prepare texts in this area ultimately prepare detailed treatises that engage in nuanced and well-researched academic debates. However, administrative law is also an area of law that has an everyday impact. From immigration to professional discipline, social benefits to labour relations, administrative law arguably affects more people, and to a much greater extent, than those affected by the traditional court process. As such, while this area raises practical questions that need clear answers, many of the leading texts are often of limited utility to practitioners who need the best answer possible to real-world problems.
In that regard, Administrative Law in Practice: Principles and Advocacy by Lorne Sossin and Emily Lawrence is a welcome resource for administrative law students and practitioners looking for practical answers to real-world questions. But this is not to say that Sossin and Lawrence shy away from difficult theoretical questions. Sossin, a professor and former Dean at Osgoode Hall Law School, has published prolifically on a variety of topics, including administrative law. Emily Lawrence is a partner at Paliare Roland LLP in Toronto and has extensive expertise in administrative law. As their text shows, both are easily able to grapple with the difficult theoretical questions in this area. However, unlike some other texts, Sossin and Lawrence translate those broad theoretical principles into concrete guidance for practitioners dealing with all manner of issues before administrative bodies.
Take, for example, their treatment of standard of review. One of the two areas of the law that law school courses on administrative law focus on is the question of what standard of review courts should apply when reviewing the decisions of administrative decision-makers. This area has attracted almost infinite jurisprudence, with Canada’s Supreme Court and academics routinely weighing in with lengthy decisions and articles. Sossin and Lawrence, however, have extracted the essence of the standard of review analysis into one chapter that covers just 17 pages—and the masterful part is that they have done so without losing any of the essential elements of the analysis, articulating the core principles as to when both reasonableness and correctness review apply and, perhaps more importantly, what those standards of review actually mean in practice. It is a perfect distillation of a notoriously complex area of administrative law.
The other issue law school courses on administrative law focus on is procedural fairness. On this issue, Sossin and Lawrence devote two chapters, again clearly setting out in practical terms what fairness means. The authors articulate with superb clarity the constituent components of what renders a hearing fair, and how decision-makers have to act to avoid being, or being seen to be, biased.
Because their text avoids the temptation to address every nook and cranny of standard of review or procedural fairness analysis, Sossin and Lawrence are able to devote significant attention to the fundamentals of the practice of administrative law. This includes areas that are routinely glossed over—or avoided entirely—in other administrative law texts. For example, this text contains chapters on tribunal practice prior to hearings, tribunal practice during hearings, and presenting evidence at hearings, providing a well-annotated overview of the practice before administrative tribunals that will serve as a useful introduction to students and an important reference guide for practitioners. These chapters help answer the core questions that practitioners before administrative tribunals routinely face, but which are regularly overlooked in courses and other texts.
Sossin and Lawrence’s text also includes valuable insights for both tribunal members and independent legal counsel providing advice to tribunals. For example, a chapter on the management and control of the hearing process contains a road map for how tribunals can deal with complicated situations or difficult litigants without overstepping their proper bounds. Given the number of self-represented litigants without legal experience before administrative tribunals, this chapter delivers essential guidance for ensuring a fair but controlled hearing.
Finally, the text addresses the mechanics of how parties can either enforce or challenge the decisions of administrative tribunals, including a chapter on remedies and enforcement in administrative agencies and tribunals—an important area of the law that is often forgotten. The closing chapter of the text, which focuses on challenging the decisions of tribunals and administrative agencies, highlights the need to consider the various routes to challenge administrative decision-makers’ decisions, including judicial review applications, appeals, and reconsideration by the tribunal itself. These are issues that can be passed over by even experienced administrative law practitioners.
In short, this text is an indispensable resource for anyone who practises before administrative tribunals. It provides the nuts and bolts of hearings before such tribunals, from beginning to end, with practical guidance throughout.
Paul-Erik Veel, a partner at Lenczner Slaght, has a commercial litigation practice, as well as extensive experience with regulatory and public law proceedings, having represented clients in professional discipline committee proceedings, commissions of inquiry, and before various administrative tribunals.