Honorable Rosalie Silberman Abella
Chautauqua Institution's Annual Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States
Chautauqua’s Jackson Lecture started in 2005. The Jackson Lecture brings a prominent U.S. Supreme Court expert to offer their take on the Court, the Justices, signal decisions and/or other related legal developments just after the Court’s completion of its latest Term. Chautauqua’s previous Jackson Lecturers have been:
Geoffrey Stone (2005)
Linda Greenhouse (2006)
Seth Waxman (2007)
Jeffrey Toobin (2008)
Paul Clement (2009)
Jeff Shesol (2010)
Dahlia Lithwick (2011)
Pamela Karlan (2012)
Charles Fried (2013)
Akhil Amar (2014)
Laurence Tribe (2015)
Tracey Meares (2016)
Justice Jon O. Newman (2017)
Justice Abella is renowned in Canada, in the United States, and beyond our continent as a great jurist, thinker, writer, and public figure in the law. She was born in 1946 in a Displaced Person’s camp in Stuttgart, in the U.S. zone of military occupation in what had been, before its surrender a year earlier, Nazi Germany. In 1950, she and her family came to Canada as refugees. She graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music in classical piano in 1964 and then attended the University of Toronto, earning a B.A. in 1967 and an LL.B. in 1970.
She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1972 and practiced civil and criminal litigation. When she was appointed to the Ontario Family Court in 1976, she was the youngest person and the first pregnant person appointed to the judiciary in Canada. In 1984, as the sole Commissioner of the federal Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, she created the term and concept of “employment equity” and developed theories of “equality” and “discrimination” that subsequently were adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada.
In 1992, she was appointed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, and in 2004 she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Among many honors, Justice Abella is a Senior Fellow of Massey College, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has given, among others, the Harlan Lecture at Princeton, the Ryan Lecture at Georgetown, the Winchester Lecture at Oxford, the Anderson Lecture at Yale, and, in 2016, Yale Law School’s graduation address, and she has been the Bullock Chair at Hebrew University and the Mackenzie King Distinguished Visiting Professor at Harvard.
Justice Abella is very familiar with the work of, and connected to the Justices of, the U.S. Supreme Court, so she will be uniquely qualified to discuss our Supreme Court and perhaps draw some comparisons and contrasts with the work of her Court.
She is married to Dr. Irving Abella, Professor Emeritus of History at York University.