Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Appeal Court's chief justice retiring 'early'

Just three weeks before he's 75

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A long career on the judiciary began with a phone call from then-federal justice minister John Crosbie and continued with calls from the Prime Minister's Office and finally from then-prime minister Brian Mulroney himself.

Now, almost three decades after that first call and after serving 28 years on the bench, including more than 20 years as chief justice of the Manitoba Court of Appeal, Richard Jamison Scott will walk out the doors of the province's judicial chambers one last time later this month.

The last hearing in which Scott will participate takes place Friday and he begins his "early" retirement at the end of the month, just three weeks before he turns 75, the mandatory retirement age for federally appointed judges.

"I'm going to miss it," he said in an interview Tuesday.

"I loved being a trial judge, but in the development of the law and the charter, this has been an interesting time to be an appellant justice, and I enjoyed it a lot."

Looking back on his judicial career, Scott recalled his work as the trial judge for one of the murder trials of former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Brian Jack and for another one that set a major precedent in Canada's criminal courts.

"I was the trial judge on the (Angelique) Lavallee decision that dealt with battered-women syndrome," he said.

"I was reversed by the Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal decision and agreed (battered-women syndrome) was a viable defence.

"I stuck my neck out a little bit because I thought it was the right thing to do with the facts of the case. I'm proud of it."

Scott also was part of the Appeal Court panel that two years ago upheld a lower-court ruling that the federal government did not violate its duty to the Métis more than a century ago when it distributed land. The Manitoba Métis Federation has argued it was entitled to a massive land claim that includes all of Winnipeg. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

"That was the most intense and difficult case I dealt with," he said, declining to say more because it is still before the courts.

Scott's career spanned six decades in the legal profession.

Married for 52 years to Mary, he is the father of three, one of whom is a lawyer in England.

He graduated from the University of Manitoba, was called to the bar in 1963 and began practising right away as a mainly civil-litigation lawyer at what is now the Thompson Dorfman Sweatman law firm.

His classmates include other judges -- Court of Appeal Justice Martin Freedman, Queen's Bench Justice Perry Schulman, and provincial court Judge Ted Glowacki -- but also prominent lawyers, including Greg Brodsky and D'Arcy McCaffrey.

While a lawyer, Scott served as a board member of Legal Aid Manitoba from 1976 to 1982, a bencher of the Law Society of Manitoba from 1980 to 1984 and the society's president from 1983 to 1984.

Then he received the phone call from Crosbie in June 1985 appointing him to the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench. It was followed by a call that October from an official in Mulroney's office appointing him associate chief justice of Queen's Bench, a position that carried with it a membership on the Canadian Judicial Council.

In July 1990, he received a call from Mulroney appointing him chief justice of the province's highest court.

Yet law wasn't Scott's first choice of career.

"I always wanted to be an aeronautical test pilot," he said, noting his father had worked with planes during the Second World War.

"My eyes weren't good enough to be a pilot and I took a series of aptitude tests... It pointed to law or business administration."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2013 A10

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