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By Brooke Sittler
I am one of a small group of tax litigation counsel at my office in Saskatoon. Several years ago, one of our counsel received a beautiful and unusual gift from her spouse. In an act of pure devotion to his wife and as a nod to her nerdy obsession with the Supreme Court he had, over the course of many months, custom made a replica of the Supreme Court of Canada out of Lego. He hunted online for the right colour for the rooftop pieces, he fitted it with holiday lights that actually light up, and he tucked a tiny Lego couple in the gardens at the front of the building, holding hands. He presented it to his wife as a Christmas gift. In doing so, he endeared himself not only to his wife, but also to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court herself. Then-Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin became aware of the creation after an online photograph of it was picked up through a newswire over the holiday period. Thanks to a slow news day and to the romantic quest of my colleague’s husband, the Chief Justice made contact with my colleague and arranged a visit to our little office in Saskatoon to view the now-famous Lego Supreme Court. Yes, that’s right…this was a personal visit from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, complete with security detail and accompanied by her spouse, Frank McArdle. She excitedly sat on my colleague’s desk and examined the replica, she graciously shook hands with each of us hangers-on who hovered around our colleague’s door nervously hoping for a few seconds of small talk with this formidable and inspiring woman, and she was by all counts entirely approachable and — surprise! — human.
So when this same lady retired from Canada’s highest court and the most powerful legal position in Canada and promptly proceeded to write a work of fiction, you can only imagine who was at the front of the line buying out the entire in-store stock of Full Disclosure at her local bookstore. Yours truly. I should mention, of course, that I received my first copy of the book from my own devoted husband for Mother’s Day, just a day or so after it was released. Seems that we tax lawyers tend to marry well.
I dove into the book and devoured it in a couple of days. It is a murder mystery told from the perspective of the protagonist, Jilly Truitt. Jilly is a young, up and coming criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver. She is working to build her firm and a name for herself. She has surrounded herself with colleagues that give her firm the feeling of a family. She has a frenemy, her mentor and long-time opponent in the court room, a crusty prosecutor named Cy. She has an on-again-off-again boyfriend, Mike. And she has a past. When she takes on a high profile case defending a well-known Vancouver billionaire against charges that he murdered his beautiful young wife, her past begins to catch up with her. There are sex scenes (OK, one sex scene and it’s extremely tasteful), f-bombs (OK, at least one f-bomb), a buxom housekeeper named Carmelina, a plucky social worker, and a loveable teen. There are heartbreaking ties to the Pickton murders. And there are some truly excellent descriptions of the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with working hard on difficult cases. Who among us hasn’t ended a gruelling night at the office with a can of tuna and a bottle of white wine? It is a wonderful, fast summer read.
After reading Full Disclosure, I handed out several copies among my colleagues in our little tax section including, of course, to the owner of the Lego Supreme Court. I gave it to my mother and she read it in one sitting in her back yard. I gave it to former classmates. To a person, those who have given feedback to me have found it to be a fun read. Why have we all loved this book so much? Perhaps because it was written by someone we admire deeply. She is someone whom we feel we know, if only just a little bit. Possibly because this book helps us to understand that behind the eyes of every great lawyer is a creative wheelhouse, a mind full of ideas yearning to be set free. That the greatest lawyers come to court laden with a toolkit of musical, literary and artistic talent along with their decades of brief-writing, affidavit reading, and transcript review. That in order to write a readable and engaging first novel almost immediately after retiring from our country’s top legal post, there must have been some part of Chief Justice McLachlin’s mind that was deciding whether Jilly would break up with Mike when she was sitting on the bench deciding her final patent, tax, and administrative law cases. Reading this book made me proud and grateful for the wonderful example of steely jurist and gifted storyteller that our former chief justice is for all of us.