Ryan Heighton holds a Juris Doctor degree from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Ontario, where he specialized in criminal law. He also holds two science degrees, both from Trent University, a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) with Honours in Biology and Psychology, and a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Life Sciences, which included breast cancer research.
While studying law at Osgoode, Ryan won the prize as the top student in the acclaimed Criminal Law Intensive Programme, where he did a placement with the judiciary at a Toronto branch of the Ontario Court of Justice.
Dedicated to social justice pursuits, Ryan got an early start in his advocacy career, arguing many successful cases and appeals in court with Fair Change Community Services, a student-led initiative focused on assisting homeless and street-involved individuals with their court cases. He carried this success to all levels of trial and appellate courts in Ontario, where he tirelessly advocates for his clients.
He has represented clients at all levels of both Trial (both judge-alone and judge and jury) and Appeal Court in Ontario. He has particular experience defending high level drug and firearm matters with complex search and seizure issues. Ryan represents his fellow counsel as both the Waterloo Region Director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the local Criminal Defence Representative on the Bench & Bar Committee of the Superior Court of Justice. He is a member of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association Litigation and Intervention Committee roster, which is responsible for intervening in high level appellate matters.
Ryan is also a frequent volunteer with justice education initiatives such as the Ontario Justice Education Network (with the Local Justice Education Committee as co-Communications Coordinator and member of the Mock Trial Subcommittee), and is a regular guest speaker in multiple forums, including Youth-Police Dialogues in at-risk neighbourhoods.
Passionate about social justice, Ryan truly enjoys assisting marginalized individuals, and has extensive experience in assisting all types of clients, including those who identify as Aboriginal, having mental health and addictions issues, and those from all walks of life. Ryan had the honour of being the first counsel to have a matter in Waterloo Region proceed by way of an Indigenous Sentencing Circle with the Ontario Court of Justice sitting as an Indigenous Peoples’ Court. His client-focused approach ensures that all clients are assisted through the criminal justice system with dignity, confident that they have an advocate who will explain their case in a way that suits their individuals needs, whether they have been through the system before or not.
Ryan believes that everyone charged with a criminal offence is entitled to the best defence possible, and endeavours to ensure that all of his clients have their rights protected.
When he isn’t in the courtroom, Ryan enjoys time with his family, including his puppy paralegal, Wicket. He is a diehard Blue Jays and Raptors fan, and loves to travel (and constantly misses hiking in Iceland).
BOARDS AND COMMITTEES
Criminal Lawyers’ Association – Board Member, Waterloo Region Director (2017-Present)
Ontario Justice Education Network – Waterloo Region Committee Member and Communications Director (2016-Present)
Ontario Court of Justice – Provincial Offences Act COVID-19 Ad Hoc Committee (2020)
Waterloo Region Law Association – Superior Court Bench & Bar Committee (2018-Present)
MEMBERSHIPS AND AFFILIATIONS
Law Society of Ontario (Member in Good Standing)
Criminal Lawyers’ Association
Ontario Justice Education Network
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Waterloo Region Law Association
RECENT PUBLICATIONS AND MEDIA
“Jailing addicts fixes nothing, Kitchener defence lawyers say” The Record 10 July 2020.
“The Defence Loses a Shield: Realities of Losing Peremptory Challenges.” For the Defence 40:2 (2020): 12.
“A Fentanyl Sentencing Update: Weathering the Storm of an Opioid Crisis.” For the Defence 39:5 (2019): 32.
“A Fentanyl Primer: Sentencing Disparity for the New Drug on the Block.” For the Defence 37:3 (2016): 34.
The Court: Author Page – TheCourt.ca – Legal Commentary
“Book Review: Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works and Sometimes Doesn’t, by Mark Geragos and Pat Harris.”Osgoode Hall Law Journal 51.3 (2014) : 1037-1042.
“There can be no defence for a justice system in Canada scarred by Bill C-51.” Lower Island News 32:2 (2015): 7.
“Mandatory minimum sentences decay judicial discretion and Americanize the Canadian criminal justice system.” Lower Island News 32:3 (2015): 13.
“Justice for those presumed innocent: A political nonstarter?” Lower Island News 32:4 (2015): 7.
IPilogue: Author Page – IP Osgoode – Legal Commentary