Retired Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella Discusses Lifelong Career in Canada with Fordham Law Community


The Fordham Law community warmly welcomed Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella in late March upon her return to the Law School as this semester’s William Hughes Mulligan Distinguished Visiting Professor in International Studies. Justice Abella, who retired from the Canadian Supreme Court in July, taught the condensed, upper-level J.D. course, “The Judicial Role in a Democracy: The United States and Canada,” from March 23 to May 4.

Near the start of her six-week visit, Justice Abella sat down with Professor Joseph Landau, assistant dean for academic affairs, on April 7 for an intimate fireside chat. More than two dozen Fordham Law faculty and students attended the in-person event.

Justice Abella’s “down-to-earth” energy made Fordham Law students comfortable to ask Justice Abella about her views on controversial topics such as court packing and confirmation hearings, as well as major issues she has dealt with during her career.

Imparting Knowledge and Wisdom from a Distinguished Career

Justice Abella, 75, spoke about her lifelong career working towards issues of human rights, equality, and constitutional law, as well as what it was like to be the only non-American to testify before U.S. President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court commission this past July. She also shared insights into professional moments that were of particular importance—including becoming the first Jewish woman appointed to the Canadian Supreme Court in 2004 and her year-long role on the 1984 federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, during which time she created the term and concept of “employment equity.”

Justice Abella emphasized that every role she held allowed her to grow and look at justice and the law in new ways. “I am a collection of the things I’ve heard from people and the things that I’ve done—most of which were outside the boundaries of the status quo for the legal system—and I have never missed an opportunity to learn from my life and from the lives of others,” she said, reflecting on both her personal life and the accolades she has accomplished over her 45-year-long career. “Even if I had never got to the Supreme Court, the things that I’ve learned have made me a better teacher, thinker, parent, spouse, and friend.”

“I feel really lucky that I’ve had a chance to be who I am, with all of the bumps in the road,” she added. “I wouldn’t want to be anybody else, and I’m here to tell the tale.”

Zoe Buzinkai ’22 had the opportunity to work with Justice Abella while she lectured at Fordham Law this semester, calling the experience an “honor.” “Listening to Justice Abella speak about legal issues and policy is an incredible privilege and being able to experience the warmth and kindness she has shown me is an even greater one,” Buzinkai said.

Justice Abella echoed similar sentiments about Fordham Law School as a whole, thanking her students, Buzinkai, and Kathleen Horton of the Dean’s office for their assistance in navigating the Law School. “If that is any indication, this is a great law school,” she remarked.

“I had been here for a day or two at a time [delivering the Robert L. Levine Distinguished Lecture in 2018 and speaking with Professor James Brudney’s first-year Legislation and Regulation class in 2019], but never really in an intense six-week experience where I got to speak to and know so many of you,” said Justice Abella, speaking directly to the audience. “I have always been of the view that what I know is what I know and I can always learn more. So, to be able to soak up what you’re thinking about [and]to be immersed in what you live and experience every day has been wonderful.”

After visiting with Fordham Law, Justice Abella will assume her role as the Samuel and Judith Pisar Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School in the fall of 2022.

James Brudney and Justice Abella

Justice Abella (right) speaks with Professor Brudney (left) and his first-year Legislation and Regulation class in 2019.


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