From Professor to Superior Court Judge: Carissima Mathen’s indelible mark on our Faculty

Faculty of Law - Common Law Section
Faculty member
Constitutional law

By Common Law

Communication, Faculty of Law

Professor Carissima Mathen
The Common Law Section celebrates the appointment of Professor Carissima Mathen, LSM, to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Toronto.

Justice Mathen, a distinguished legal scholar with expertise in Canadian constitutional law, has been a pivotal figure within the Faculty since joining in 2011. She taught Canadian Constitutional and Criminal Law, as well as seminars in Advanced Constitutional Law. From 2017-2019, she served as the Vice-Dean (Academic) of the English Program.  

Profound impact on our community

"I couldn’t be happier for Justice Mathen,” says Kristen Boon, Dean of the Common Law Section. “She will be a wonderful addition to the bench.  She has had a profound impact on our academic community, and her dedication to teaching and research, particularly in the realm of constitutional law, has enriched the experiences of countless students and colleagues."

Professor Mathen’s students have benefited not only from the depth of knowledge and expertise she brings to the classroom, but also because she cares so deeply for the next generation of lawyers.

Natalie Chiasson, a JD ’24 candidate, was in Professor Mathen’s 1L small group for Criminal Law. She appreciated Professor Mathen’s ability to “seamlessly explain complex and abstract legal concepts.” Natalie adds “[Professor Mathen’s] course was the perfect start to my law school experience and undoubtedly inspired me to practice criminal law.” 

Honour and responsibility

“It was surreal,” says Justice Mathen of the call she received one evening from the Honourable Arif Virani, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, who had called to tell her of this appointment. “I felt a tremendous sense of honour, of course, but also responsibility. I thought about my parents, who passed away a few years ago. It was tough not to be able to share the moment with them.”

Reflecting on her academic journey, Professor Mathen says, "I think that my experience in the academy - both in teaching and research - has given me some useful skills. Among these are: the ability to read and synthesize large amounts of material; appreciate the broad scope of an area of law; communicate clearly; and focus on the details."

Leap of faith

Justice Mathen advises aspiring legal professionals, particularly those interested in constitutional law and judicial careers, to "make sure you enjoy what you do, even if it involves going outside your comfort zone. 

“I was nervous when I left practice after seven years to pursue a graduate degree and, eventually, start teaching. But it turned out to be one of the most significant decisions of my life. When you take those leaps of faith, things usually fall into place."

Justice Mathen is grateful to uOttawa for providing her an academic home for 14 years, and says, "I will always remember the students who have energized me, the professors who have inspired me, the deans and staff who have guided me, and the friends who have supported me. It has been a great run, and I will miss the Faculty more than I can say."

Before her time at the University of Ottawa, Justice Mathen's taught law at the University of New Brunswick from 2002 to 2011. After her call to the bar, she spent seven years working for the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) where she pursued path-breaking Charter of Rights litigation. 

Justice Mathen has published over fifty articles and numerous books, among them the award-winning monograph Courts Without Cases: The Law and Politics of Advisory Opinions (2019), The Tenth Justice (with Michael Plaxton) (2020), and (expected in 2024) Decoding the Court: Legal Data Insights from the Supreme Court of Canada.  She was General Editor of the casebook Canadian Constitutional Law, 6th Edition (2022). Her dedication to scholarship and pedagogy has earned her numerous accolades, including the 2022 David W. Mundell Medal from the Government of Ontario and the Award for Excellence in Legal Research from the Law Faculty in 2018.

Professor Carissima Mathen's appointment to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario is a testament to her exemplary legal career and unwavering commitment to justice and scholarship. The Common Law Section extends its heartfelt congratulations to Professor Mathen on this well-deserved honour, and wish her continued success in her new judicial role.

To learn more please consult the Department of Justice announcement about judicial appointments in the province of Ontario (May 1, 2024).