The Trial Judge: Pilot, Participant, or Umpire?


  • Hugh W. Silverman, Q.C.



The recent decision in Phillips v. Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. et al.t has reopened question which some might have considered to be somewhat settled: the role and function of the trial judge. Professor Silverman has taken the Phillips decision as cue for making comprehensive analysis of the English and Cana dian case law concerning the trial judge's function, in civil as well as criminal cases. Such issues as the rule requiring the presentation of evidence in open court, the limitations on the trial judge's right to call witnesses, his interference in the examination of witnesses and his intervention in the trial as whole are examined. Professor Silverman notes that although there may be dicta in some criminal and civil cases which apply to both, the better approach for the trial judge is to restrict himself "as much as possible" to the principles set out in cases of the same nature (criminal or civil) as the one before him. However, the author does lay down several general propositions delineating the boundaries of the trial and the role of the trial judge, which are applicable to both criminal and civil cases. Professor Silverman concludes, that although a trial judge may be pilot he "is certainly more than an umpire, watching the sporting-theory of litigation in action; and he is less than participant in that he should not enter into the fray of combat nor take on the mantle of counsel".