Justice officials caught off guard
Replacement for retired judge off in the future

by Chris Meyers Almey
Northern News Services

NNSL (Feb 24/97) - More visiting judges than usual will be filling in at territorial court for the foreseeable future.

There is no replacement in sight for recently retired Judge Thomas Davis.

Was it known for a long time in the territorial Department of Justice that Davis was going to retire?

"He was waiting for his 65th birthday and 15 years of service," deputy minister Don Cooper said in an interview last week with News/North. "So he was going to retire some time this year."

The only catch is, Davis was contemplating that sometime would be later this year.

Was the ministry caught a little bit by surprise?

"You could say that. It could take a number of months to replace the judge.

The process is a considered one, not one done overnight," Cooper said.

Judges on sabbatical or vacation have been used before and they are going to be used to help with this workload.

The division of the NWT happens in a little over two years, which is a factor in the situation.

"We are assessing the demographics of the situation and our appointments," Cooper said. "We haven't made any decision yet in respect to a replacement for Judge Davis.

"Probably in the not too distant future we'll have a better feel of what we are going to do, in concert with the chief judge of the territorial court."

In fact, Justice Minister Kelvin Ng said last week in the legislative assembly that he is considering appointing a judge for term position to end March 31, 1999 -- the day before division.

Ng said he hopes to find a suitable candidate soon, but played down the possibility of apppointing one to sit in Nunavut, as requested by Iqaluit MLA Ed Picco, because of the extra cost.

Just when was the last time the government had to replace a judge?

Cooper said he thought it was six or seven years ago. Since 1975 he could only think of six judges who have come and gone from the territorial court.

Interestingly, the last two, Davis and Judge Michel Bourassa, did not come from the North.

"The bar used to be very small, but I think the North has enough good candidates who'd be good judge material," he said.