THE ADVOCATE 837
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
ON BEING A
CRIMINAL DEFENCE LAWYER IN 2020:
50 YEARS ON FROM
G. ARTHUR MARTIN’S ADDRESS ON
THE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY OF THE
By Tom Arbogast
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of G. Arthur Martin’s famed
address to The Advocates’ Society on The Role and Responsibility of
the Defence Advocate.1 It still resonates today.
Criminal law practitioners should continue to heed its guidance.
It is also valuable for lawyers who do not practise criminal law, as it
offers insight into the pressures and obligations resting on criminal law
Martin addressed a broad array of topics relating to the practice of criminal
law, from perceptions of being a criminal defence advocate, to complex
decisions and ethical issues facing counsel. This brief note will focus on
how Martin’s comments in 1970 about what it meant to be a criminal
defence advocate still apply today.
Martin is one of the giants of criminal law in Canada, as an advocate and
jurist. His influence is broad, and his judgments oft quoted. Many criminal
law practitioners pay particular attention to a handful of eminent criminal
law jurists who left their mark over the past four or five decades. Martin is
in that handful. One can readily see today’s courts giving him wide deference
whenever he has weighed in on a complex criminal law issue.
In his address, Martin addressed two core concepts relating to criminal
defence practice: (1) the stature of defence counsel in the context of advocacy
generally, and (2) the legal system’s and the profession’s role in ensuring that
persons facing the criminal justice system have adequate representation.
Martin started out as a criminal defence lawyer when criminal defence
lawyers were generally held in low regard. He spoke of the “altered … image
of the defence advocate,” noting the reduced status of the advocate and the