Manitoba Bar Association Solomon Greenberg Prize in Advocacy

Awarded to the student (1) who has placed first in the Moot Court Competition, and awarded to the student (2) who has placed second in the Moot Court Competition.

Background Information

Viewed as a folk hero by those he defended, regarded with suspicion for his defence of those connected with leftist causes, Solomon Greenberg was one of the best criminal lawyers in western Canada. He was a defender of personal liberty and was never afraid to challenge the system of which he was a part. He said many times, “If that’s the law, it’s wrong. Let’s change it.”

Solomon Greenberg was born in Odessa, Russia, on August 20, 1894. He emigrated to Canada with his widowed mother and her six other children to escape the Russian pogroms. After graduation from St. John’s Technical High School, he started the study of law at the University of Manitoba and with the firm Conde and Taylor. Upon his call to the Bar in 1920, he was a partner with Simon Abrahamson for seventeen years and then left to open his own practice. He would walk between his home on Machray Avenue and his office in the Confederation Life Building on Main Street, preparing the days’ cases in his mind.

During his career, Mr. Greenberg’s personal integrity caused him to be associated with “unpopular” causes. He appeared as counsel in cases arising out of the Winnipeg General Strike and defended people against the wielding by the Federal Government of the very powerful Immigration Act of 1927 and the Defence of Canada Regulations, the latter arising out of the World War II War Measures Act. So, although his courtroom talent was widely acknowledged and respected, Solomon Greenberg was never accepted by the establishment. This non-acceptance is best exemplified by the fact that Solomon Greenberg never received the title “Queen’s Counsel” in his lifetime. In an article in the Manitoba Bar News, Mr. Justice Charles Huband, then the editor, pointed out the title had become increasingly a political appointment to the point that some people receiving the designation between 1955-58 had only one or two reported cases. In contrast, Solomon Greenberg had appeared as leading counsel in over 90 reported cases. Although still young, Mr. Greenberg’s health began to fail. He argued in court less often, leaving that to others in the firm. He made an appearance in court on September 9, 1958, but after asking for an adjournment because he was not feeling well, he collapsed in the courtroom. He died three days later.

In 1964, Mrs. Solomon Greenberg established the Solomon Greenberg Prize to be awarded to the most outstanding student in the Moot Court programme. Finally, in 1972, Attorney-General Mackling took the unusual step of conferring a posthumous Q.C. on Solomon Greenberg “to correct a long overdue omission.”

Disclaimer: The description of the prizes is accurate at the time of posting on the web. However, terms of reference may change and for any further information please contact the Associate Dean’s Office.

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