Live and Learn: Hon. James M. Farley

After overseeing back-to-back CCAA's for Air Canada and Stelco, “Bay Street's Judge Judy” returns to the other side of the bench — Bay Street firm McCarthy Tétrault — and brings his “Chuck You, Farley” T-shirt with him.

Liquidating a company can be like lighting a cigar with a $100 bill. It isn't always the most efficient way to deal with an insolvency.

My favourite lawyer joke is the one in which an attorney argues about being too young to die. “No mistake,” replies St. Peter. “By the number of hours you've billed clients, you're at least 100.” That said, I'm not sure the public truly appreciates the dedication I have seen in the legal profession.

I have two sons, who had normal adjustments growing up. I never had to use my experience on the bench in the family circle. Neither of my boys is a hedge-fund manager or a union leader, but that would have been fine.

A typical Saturday night is spent babysitting the grandmonkeys and having a nice dinner with my wife.

Learning came relatively easy, but I was a normal child raised by good parents in Guelph, a good cultural setting with lots to do.

My first job was as a Toronto Star paper-boy in the late '40s. It was a long, sparse route, and I was paid 0.9¢ per paper.

The desire to serve is part of my fabric. I'd have joined the Armed Forces, but my father suggested something else might be better.

My toughest court decision was a criminal case in which a man accused of drug trafficking decided to be tried by jury. On the basis of evidence before me, I would not have convicted. But the jury thought otherwise, and one must respect the jury system, so I had to sentence a fellow to prison against my own beliefs. The happy ending is that the Appeal Court shared my views.

Stelco's restructuring took an awful lot of twists. In the two years, two months and two days that I handled the file, I wasn't sure what would happen until the last two hours, two minutes and two seconds.

Working the Commercial List was a learning experience. When called to the bench, I knew the Bankruptcy Act existed, and I had come across CCAA in my university days, but it wasn't part of my repertoire.

Globalization is a dirty word to a lot of people. They tend to look back 20 or 40 years and conclude life was simpler. That might be true, but we didn't have the standard of living that we do today. And we can't stop the world to get off.

The role of a director changes with each frame in a moving picture. When a company is solvent, the focus can be on shareholders. In an insolvency, consideration of creditors becomes critical. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that the duty of directors and officers is to make companies better for the benefit of all stakeholders.

I've been called many things. My favourite is Jim.

I own a 'Chuck you, Farley' T-shirt. I'm not sure, but I think they originated during the Air Canada file.

In corporate insolvency matters, judges aren't passive. They determine various legal battles while supervising chaotic proceedings. If a company is salvageable, it must recognize there is usually a benefit to it being reorganized rather than sold off piecemeal, since soft assets ? including a trained workforce, established distribution network and loyal customers and suppliers ? often represent the overwhelming value of an organization.

My favourite book is A Canticle for Leibowitz, an old science-fiction novel by Walter M. Miller Jr.

I have lots of favourite movies, mostly old ones. Among modern films, Evita is a favourite. It's well staged and I love the musical.

I thoroughly enjoy golf. It's as friendly as you want and played according to the rules of self-reliance. You're your own umpire.

I never really retired after stepping down from the bench. I had the thought in mind that I'd like another legal career.

Returning to McCarthy Tétrault will be fun. I won't run a treadmill. I don't know that I was ever truly a workaholic like people said.

James M. Farley


Born Oct. 15, 1940, in Guelph, Ont.

Lawyer-slayer, Bay Street's Judge Judy


Awarded Rhodes scholarship after finishing an economics degree at the University of Western Ontario in London.


Called to the bar after studying law at the University of Toronto. Starts legal career as a deal maker, not a litigator.


Early in his judgeship, Farley helps set up Ontario's Commercial List, a fast track for complex cases such as insolvencies.


Tops his Commercial List career by managing back-to-back CCAA applications from Air Canada and Stelco.


Puts Stelco's CCAA to bed and hangs up the robe. Takes another crack at working the other side of the legal bench.