Jon Khan

PhD Candidate
Jon Khan photo
Dissertation Title
The Absence of Deliberate Design in Canada's Legal System


The struggle of our courts to operate during COVID-19 brought considerable attention to Canada’s legal system. But our legal system struggled to operate long before COVID-19. Crisis already plagued it. Serious concerns had been raised about access to justice: complacency; delay; inconsistency; and overwhelming expense. Yet we lack the data we need to design solutions. Canada has a legal data deficit. We know more about sports teams than we do about our legal system. But two things are clear. Marginalized people bear a brunt of the access to justice crisis. Our legal system is not based on any deliberate design: its foundation rests on colonialism, rebellion, precedent, inertia, and patchy reforms. My research examines how judicial decision-making interacts with the access to justice crisis, the data deficit, and the absence of deliberate design. My research objective is two-fold: create and analyze datasets about Canada’s legal system; design improvements for judicial decision-making and written judicial decisions. Judicial decisions are our legal system’s cornerstone. They contain countless data points about the issues that drive litigants to court and how judges resolve their disputes. Because of decisions’ inconsistent structure, length, and imprecision, this data is neither compiled nor analyzed. But if decisions were better designed, at least three gains could occur: (1) Data in better structured decisions would be easily amenable to data science. We could gain insights we lack, e.g., how individual judges sentence marginalized people. The legal data deficit would improve. (2) We could use this data to design new user-focused laws and processes. The absence of deliberate design would fade. (3) Litigation could become cheaper, faster, and more predictable. Access to justice would improve.


Honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) (Double Major: History & Philosophy) - York University, 2009

Juris Doctor (JD) (Specialization in Public International Law) - University of Ottawa, 2013

Master of Laws (LLM) - University of Toronto, 2019

Teaching Experience

Course Instructor: Legal Process - Osgoode Hall Law School (2019 - Ongoing).

Philip C. Jessup Moot Competition Coach - University of Ottawa (2013 - 2018).

Professional Experience

Legal Counsel - Department of Justice, Vancouver, BC (2015 - currently on academic leave of absence).

Law Clerk - British Columbia Supreme Court, New Westminster, BC (2013-2014).

Summer and Articling Student - Department of Justice, Vancouver, BC (2013, 2014-2015).

Research Assistant & Research Fellow - University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON (2010-2013).

  • Newton W. Rowell Graduate Scholarship (2020) (PhD).
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2019, 2020) (PhD).
  • York Graduate Fellowship (2019, 2020) (PhD).
  • Harry W. Arthurs Fellowship (2019, 2020) (PhD).
  • York Graduate Scholarship (2019) (PhD).
  • Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGSM Scholarship (2018) (LLM).
  • Albert S. Abel Memorial Award (2018 (LLM).
  • Mary & Louis Anisman Fellowship in Law & Fairness (2018) (LLM).
  • Best Oralist in Canadian Final Round, Philip C. Jessup Moot Competition (2011, 2013) (JD).
  • Maxwell Cohen Scholar (2013) (JD).
  • Best Oralist & Team Awards, Nelligan O’Brien Payne Moot Competition (2009) (JD).
  • “Courts go virtual due to COVID-19, but underlying issues plagued the justice system before the pandemic” (2 July 2020) Talk 640 - The Morning Show.
  • “There Might Come Soft Rains: Technological Determinism, International Law, and the Age of Intelligent Machines” (2019) Politics and the Histories of International Law Conference (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law), Germany (With Katie Szilagyi).
  • “Solving the ‘Khadr Problem’: Retention of Jurisdiction – A Comparative Analysis” (2014) David Asper Centre Constitutional Remedies Conference, Canada (with Dr. Amir Attaran).
  • “To Pause Modernity: The Biological Needs Based Perspective for Human Rights” (2008) Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference, USA.