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Renowned lawyer Eddie Greenspan dies at 70

WATCH: Christina Stevens details the illustrious life of criminal lawyer Eddie Greenspan who is being remembered as a great civil libertarian.

TORONTO – Renowned lawyer Eddie Greenspan has passed away at the age of 70.

Greenspan was born on Feb. 28, 1944 in Niagara Falls and over a 44-year career made a name for himself as one of Canada’s top criminal defence lawyers, representing a number of high-profile clients including media magnate Conrad Black, former theatre mogul Garth Drabinsky, German financier Karlheinz Schreiber and former premier of Nova Scotia Gerald Regan.

He also represented Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan man who was convicted of killing his disabled daughter, during an appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.

Greenspan also served as the vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Sukanya Pillay, the association’s executive director, said Wednesday his death marks a “huge loss for Canada.”

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“Eddie Greenspan was a great criminal lawyer, a great civil libertarian, he was the vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and each decade he made huge contributions to the protection and the promotion of civil liberties across the country,” she said during an interview.

“Part of being a good defence counsel is making sure the charter rights are protected and he did that. And he also fought for equality and other constitutional rights. So he was a great lawyer all around.”

Greenspan temporarily suspended his practice in 1986 in order to travel Canada and debate against the return of capital punishment in Canada – work which Pillay described as making a “tremendous difference.”

Joseph A. Neuberger, a Toronto-area criminal defence lawyer, said in a written statement that Greenspan was a “larger than life Canadian icon in criminal law.”

“Eddie Greenspan was an ardent defender of rights, a strong advocate and an engine for social change.  Eddie abhorred the death penalty and spoke out in favour of its abolishment.  He defended countless high profile clients and appeared in all level of courts in Canada.  He had a genuine sense of humour and could engage a crowd or jury like very few.  He was kind to his fellow colleagues and he will be sorely missed.”

Toronto Mayor and former lawyer John Tory released a brief statement on Greenspan’s passing Wednesday morning describing him as a “larger than life figure in legal circles, our city and country.”

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“He was a brilliant lawyer who understood how important it is that everyone have a defence, and he was a tireless champion for human rights. On top of that he was a great citizen and a wonderful human being. On my own behalf, and on behalf of the people of Toronto, I offer my sincere condolences to his family. He will truly be missed.”

Greenspan authored several books on criminal law including his autobiography Greenspan: The Case for the Defence.

He received his law degree from Osgoode Hall in 1968, was called to the Ontario bar in 1970 and the Alberta bar in 1987. He was became a Queen’s Counsel in 1982.

He also hosted the Gemini award winning The Scales of Justice on CBC from 1990 to 1994, a documentary-style show on famous Canadian criminal trials.

According to his curriculum vitae, he also worked as a guest lecturer at several universities including Fordham Law School in New York, University of California Berkeley, Duke University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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