No shrinking violet

by David Savoie

Anne-France Goldwater (photo: Owen Egan)

Anne-France Goldwater, BCL’80, is a one-of-a-kind presence on the Quebec legal scene. Her frank manner and shoot-from-the-hip style stand out in a world soaked in protocol and civility. It doesn’t hurt that she has a knack for court cases that grab newspaper headlines.

Coming from a family of legal experts, Goldwater says, “I literally grew up in the courthouse. The most dramatic moments of my life took place in court rooms,” everything from losing a pregnancy during a major case, to finding out about her mother’s suicide.

At the age of 21, she started her own firm, Goldwater, Dubé. She dove into tax law, dabbled in criminal law, but ended up a family law specialist, because she found it more intellectually stimulating.

“I love arguing cases, and a good argument has a healthy dose of the spectacular,” she says to explain her unique style.

She has made her mark in several major cases.

In 2003, Goldwater secured the first judgment in favour of same-sex marriage in Quebec, in the case of Michael Hendricks and René Leboeuf. That victory earned her an award from the Canadian Bar Association. Her most famous case might be Eric vs. Lola, in which a woman sued her wealthy ex-common law spouse for spousal support. The outcome could have a major impact on all common law spouses in Quebec.

Her short fuse frequently gets her in trouble.

The Bar has warned her about her language. Caustic comments about a colleague recently landed her before a disciplinary committee. “That’s the way I am,” she says. “I’m successful because the people who hire me know that I will defend them to the death.”

The flamboyant lawyer’s career is heading in a new direction. Since September, Goldwater has been L’Arbitre (“The Arbitrator”), on Canal V. The concept is simple: Two plaintiffs come before her to resolve a dispute where the claim is under $7,000, as in small claims court.

“She’s a natural,” says the show’s producer,Yves Thériault. Already, the CBC has shown interest in an English-language version of the show. “I’m even more entertaining in English,” Goldwater says with a grin.

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