Legal advocate, university lecturer, free-speech champion.
High-profile Windsor lawyer Patrick Ducharme, who gained notoriety for controversial cases and courtroom precedents over a four-decade career, is receiving one of the most prestigious honours in Canada’s legal profession.
Windsor lawyer Patrick Ducharme receives lifetime achievement award
The largest criminal lawyer organization in Canada has named Ducharme the 2021 recipient of the G. Arthur Martin Criminal Justice Medal. It’s only the third time in the award’s 32-year history that a lawyer outside of Toronto is receiving it, and the first time it’s going to southwestern Ontario.
I’m not going anywhere soon
“Mr. Patrick Ducharme is quite simply an inspiration to defence lawyers across Canada,” said John Struthers, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. “Hard work, perseverance, courage and collegiality are the trademarks of his practice. He has inspired generations of lawyers through his teaching and mentorship. While I personally believe defence work is the pinnacle of the legal profession, Mr. Ducharme has achieved the summit.”
Windsor lawyer Patrick Ducharme is shown in his office on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.
Windsor lawyer Patrick Ducharme is shown in his office on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star
Martin, who died in 2001, was a justice in Ontario’s Court of Appeal and one of Canada’s most prominent criminal law experts. Ducharme said many consider Martin the “best trial lawyer that ever lived in Canada,” and called it an honour to be counted with such an “icon.”
“It’s meaningful not just because of the name under which it’s given, but all the people that went before me,” he said. “They are literally the who’s who of anybody that’s special in the criminal justice system. I’m just completely honoured that they would name me for that prestigious award.”
Born and raised in Windsor, Ducharme studied at the University of Windsor and was called to the bar in 1977. He has since been in the spotlight for many noteworthy cases.
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In 2012, he secured an acquittal for Kuldeep Singh Dharni, accused in one of the largest-ever cocaine busts at the Windsor border.
Ducharme defended Ned Maodus, a former Toronto police drug squad officer from Essex County, in what was touted as the largest police corruption case in Canadian history. Maodus ultimately served 45 days in jail.
He was also the longtime lawyer and agent for Detroit Red Wings legend Bob Probert.
Starting in the early 1980s, in what he saw as a fight for freedom of expression, Ducharme championed the cause of exotic dancing. He went to trial 163 times defending strip clubs in Windsor, London, Sarnia and Toronto over indecent theatrical performances and nudity in a public place.
He won every case and helped pave the way for dancers in Canada to perform fully nude.
Despite his accomplishments as “a highly skilled and formidable trial advocate,” the lawyers’ association said Ducharme’s career is distinguished by his “enduring commitment to legal education.”
Along with writing several legal advocacy books, he was a lecturer in University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law for 40 years, before recently giving it up.
He might be done with the classroom, but certainly not the courtroom.
“I can go on for days talking about advocacy,” said Ducharme. “It’s what I love. When people ask me about retirement I say, ‘you know what son? I’ll retire 10 years after you’re gone.’ Somebody will carry me out of my office in a pine box. I’m not going anywhere soon.”
by Trevor Wilhelm