DUNSMUIR v. NEW BRUNSWICK, 2008 SCC 9 (2008) 1 SCR 190

The Standard of Review in the administrative law is determined.

Appellant Dunsmuir was a court official in the New Brunswick Civil Service. He was reckless about his position and said to have held it for pleasure. On three different occasions, he was reprimanded and was finally given salary of four and a half months while being told that he was deemed to be not suitable for the post he held as against being dismissed for a cause. However, he opposed his dismissal and sought his grievance under the Public Service Labour Relations Act for an appropriate cause which resulted in his reinstatement order. This decision came to the courts for judicial review.

It was held that the decision of the adjudicator had no locus standing on reasonableness simpliciter standard and that the decision was thereafter unreasonable in law. As per the current practice, two contexts were interpreted to check the standard of review analysis: (1) Correctness; and (2) Reasonableness. Further, this reasonableness is again checked to have fulfilled two terms i.e., patent reasonableness and simpliciter reasonableness. The court said that reviewing the correctness of standards is done to the issues that are of legal importance and consists of the decision-makers’ expertise. Further, it was held that appellant did not require an exhaustive review in his case and every case that comes for judicial review should not be exhaustively reviewed as the existing jurisprudence does that work already.

The Court explained two steps involved in judicial review that needs to be followed. First, Courts have to ascertain whether or not the jurisprudence has already determined to its satisfactory about the degree of deference. Secondly, when there is an unfruitful first inquiry done, the courts shall analyze the factors to make it a proper standard of review. Further, in determining these appropriate standards, several factors are taken into consideration including: whether the private clause or right to appeal on the case is present, the determining tribunal’s intention in interpretation of enabling legislation, the nature of the question brought in the court for review, the expertise of the tribunal.

The precedents had established that when the questions of law is raised, the courts must apply their view of the correctness at the question. But, such questions should reach consistent and uniform answers. And in event of applying brains in external legislation issues, two factors that were deemed important to remember were: coherence and intellect involved in determining the reasons and whether the decision falls within the range of acceptable, permissible, and possible outcomes.

After an exhaustive discussion on the issue, the bench also observed that the private clause should never be treated as conclusive, rather it should be treated more as a factor in the pragmatic and functionality view. It is important to note that decision making bodies of the administrative bodies have their limits. The source of judicial review is always present to all the citizens and courts will always concur with the people who are victimized due to being overstepped by a particular legal authority. Nevertheless, the most important objective of the courts to ensure is to uphold the rule of law. At the same time, not interfering with the undue discharge of legislative functionalities are equally important. Therefore, the courts are only to ensure that the administrative processes are legal, fair, and reasonable.