Happy Feminist Friday with Carissima Mathen!

Today’s feminist Friday is a special treat! We are profiling Prof. Carissima Mathen, recently announced as a 2018 Law Society Medalist — to say it is an honour is an understatement. Without further ado, read on to learn more about this inspirational professor.

Carissima Mathen is Vice-Dean (Academic) and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa. A specialist in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and US Constitutional Law, she is a widely published scholar and one of the most sought after and active legal media commentators in the country. From 1994-2001, Professor Mathen was Director of Litigation for the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF). She is a recognized expert in sexual assault law and has been involved in many path-breaking Supreme Court decisions including Ewanchuk, Darrach, Mills and J.A.  In recent years, Professor Mathen’s scholarship has focussed on the judicial appointments process, the core wrongs of sexual assault, and the reference function of Canadian courts.  Her forthcoming book, Courts without Cases: The Law and Politics of Advisory Opinions (Hart) is expected in 2019.  She has been announced as a 2018 recipient of the Law Society Medal, one of the highest honours bestowed by the Law Society of Ontario.


The qualities I admire most in a law professor are…being able to dash off fully formed lectures without notes.  After sixteen years, it’s a skill I have yet to master. I also admire creativity and humour.

The trait I deplore in a law professor is…Self-absorption.  Treating students like annoyances.  Not being collegial.

The best time of day for writing is…mid-morning to mid-afternoon.  Occasionally supplemented by bursts of inspiration at 2 am.

My feminist heroes are…My mother, Elsie Mathen, a brilliant Tennyson scholar. Katherine Johnson. Justice Lynn Smith.  Emma Thompson.

Right now I am working on…getting my manuscript, Courts Without Cases: The Law and Politics of Advisory Opinions ready for its publisher (Hart).

Right now I am reading…lots of legal theory and arcane pieces about stuff like the origins of seriatim decisions.

And I wish I were reading…all of my back issues of The New Yorker.

I would recommend that all IFLS readers read…Constance Backhouse’s bio of Claire L’Heureux-Dubé.  Elaine Craig’s Putting Trials on Trial.  Michael Plaxton’s Implied Consent and Sexual Assault.

A song I love that doesn’t get enough airplay isCan’t Find My Way Home, by Blind Faith.

If I wasn’t a law professor, I would be spending my time…I used to say teaching dance, but these days I think I’d make YouTube videos.

The most difficult part of writing about Supreme Court appointments is…having to stay mum about certain things revealed to me in confidence!

Thank you so much, Prof. Mathen and congratulations once again!

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