THE ERNEST-CORMIER BUILDING BECOMES A COURTHOUSE THE DEN OF THE GREAT PLEADINGS

N .DLR: In the previous edition of the Journal du Barreau , a brief history was drawn of the construction of the building which houses, since August 2004, the Quebec Court of Appeal. The second of the three sections relating the story of the Ernest-Cormier building takes us to the dawn of the twentieth century, when the construction of the building begins.

N ed in 1885, Ernest Cormier studied engineering at the École Polytechnique and became an architect. Then, after studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he returned to Montreal, where he became a great master of the Art Deco style during the 20s and 30s. Focused on straight lines, geometric rigor and elegance, this artistic movement was born and imposed in France between the two world wars.

A photo of Ernest Cormier shows a man with a direct and concentrated look, with pronounced eyebrows that model a perpetual frown. With a sketch of a smile, a cigarette on his lips, round glasses, a polka-dot tie and a dark hat, he embodies the self-assured and experienced artist who has already proved himself.

In addition to the building that now bears his name, Cormier’s works include the majestic Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa and the central pavilion of the Université de Montréal. Topped by its famous tower, the latter is inseparable from the north side of Mount Royal – a modern citadel rising above the roofline, a living metaphor for a thriving city.

Pierre-Basile-Mignault Room 
Pierre-Basile-Mignault Room

Once the Ernest-Cormier building was completed in 1926, the entire judicial hierarchy in criminal matters, from lower courts to the Criminal Division of the Court of Queen’s Bench, to the Court of Sessions of the Peace, was transferred. in the new palace. In short, the Montreal criminal law administration is concentrated in one place.

More than a courthouse in the classical sense, the Ernest-Cormier building will occupy a singular place in the political life of the city and the province. ” Formerly [in the 30s, 40s and 50s], the Office of the Premier of Quebec was in this building, ” said Claude Bisson, former Chief Justice of the Quebec Court of Appeal . ” Messrs. Taschereau and Duplessis had their offices until the inauguration of the building Hydro-Québec, on Dorchester Boulevard then .”

As a legal and administrative center, the palace also served to direct the spotlight on some of the most brilliant speakers in the Quebec pantheon today. ” At that time, the litigants knew how to handle public speaking, ” commented Judge Yves Mayrand of the Quebec Superior Court . ” The court was more theatrical than today, and the lawyers were walking back and forth on the bench and the jurors.The Court was the showcase of the tenors of the Bar, the people who would one day become ministers and judges. in chief. ”

Joe Cohen, Alexandre Chevalier, Raymond Daoust and Claude Wagner were among the stars of the criminal law. ” It was a pleasure to hear them, ” recalls Antonio Lamer, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada .

” Upper Court of peace sessions floor stood the foundation of jury trials for crimes was then called” indictables “ ” wrote e  Gaëtan Raymond , on the roll of the Order of the Bar in 1946. ” By its majesty, this court contrasted with that of the lower floor.Law students attended major trials, such as the Stabile case , to learn the great maneuvers of famous lawyers. ”

Indeed, the jury trials were held in the largest room of the palace, a huge courtroom that now bears the name of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine.

But even the greatest dramas can not take place without a talented director. In the case of the Ernest Cormier courthouse, this key role was played by Judge Wilfrid Lazure. Appointed to the Superior Court in 1936, he presided over the criminal court for a long time. “Judge Lazure devoted himself to his duties for 25 years,” says Judge Bisson, “and he was king and master of this great hall.”

” I thought, one day, I wanted to be Mr. Lazure ,” says Judge Lamer, ” and that’s what happened, I was appointed to the Superior Court in 1969, and I was given the sitting. “from the outside, the building Ernest-Cormier, anchored with its roots chiseled granite, appears unfazed. It looks like one of those solitary rocks that break the foam of the waves. Yet this is not the case. The building has always been imbued with the cacophony of human dramas. ” The concourse [the lobby] was very eventful , said Michel Proulx, retired judge of the Court of Appeal . The lawyers waited in this room, in the“An atmosphere of competition hovered over the palace during the ’50s and’ 60s.” There was a cleavage between the criminalists and the civilians, says Judge Mayrand. The criminalists stood together; there was a great fraternity among the members. It was a privilege to get one of the 40 boxes available to lawyers.