A pioneer in the growth and development of family law in Ontario, Justice Walsh passed away on December 28, 2017, at the age of 92.
Justice George Walsh was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1950 and practiced law with his father, until the latter was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1958. Justice Walsh was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1960 and continued to practice law, with an emphasis on family law.”
In 1978, Justice Walsh was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario where he was immediately put in charge of the Family Law Division. At the time, spousal support was still called alimony and a woman’s entitlement to support depended on English law as it existed before Confederation. All divorces had to be heard in court and trials lasted weeks. There was an enormous backlog of cases waiting to be heard.
Justice Walsh, together with Justice Gertrude Speigel, was at the forefront of the work to simplify, expedite, and humanize family law. Gowns largely disappeared, and litigants, lawyers, and judges met informally. Discussions, offers, and settlement began to occur more frequently as family law belatedly entered the 20th Century.
Known as the ‘dean’ of the family law Bar, Justice Walsh’s philosophy was: resolution where possible; if not, timely adjudication. His objective was to reduce the cost of resolving family differences and issues, including the direct cost to the litigant and the indirect cost to the taxpayer, all of which had to be done without in any way reducing the quality or caliber of justice and the availability and timeliness of justice in the community. In his honour, the country’s first family law moot competition, the Walsh Family Law Moot, was held in Toronto in 2013 and it continues to be held annually with attendance growing every year.
The Walsh Family Law Moot and Negotiation Competition is named to recognize the outstanding contribution made by Justice Walsh to the development of family law in the province of Ontario.