Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Compassion, courtesy Kopstein's trademarks

Recommended no-fault vehicle insurance

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Robert Kopstein, who dispensed justice with compassion and recommended the province's no-fault vehicle insurance system during his more than three decades on the bench, has died.

Kopstein died on Friday. He was 81.

Provincial court Judge Heather Pullan said Kopstein was a mentor to articling students, lawyers and even judges.

"He wasn't any different when he was my colleague," Pullan said on Monday. "He was the same approachable and courteous person.

"As a colleague he was the quiet voice that stilled the room that everyone listened to."

Defence counsel Saul Simmonds called Kopstein "the epitome of judges."

Simmonds said Kopstein would listen to both sides of a legal argument before ruling.

"He had compassion when the case called for compassion and he was strong when it needed strength," he said.

"Even if your client went to jail, they never felt they didn't have a fair hearing."

Defence counsel Josh Weinstein called Kopstein "a gentleman."

"He was firm. He was extremely patient with counsel.

"We missed him when he retired and the bar will miss him even more now. He was just a kind soul and a very compassionate judge."

Kopstein, in an autobiography he wrote for the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life, said he went to Queenston, Robert H. Smith and Kelvin schools before receiving his bachelor of arts in 1955. He was called to the bar in 1958.

Kopstein was hired by the province in 1971 to draft the regulations for the implementation of Autopac.

He was appointed to the bench in September 1971 and served 34 years until he retired in April 2006.

During his years on the bench, the government turned to him again for Autopac in 1987, appointing him commissioner of the Autopac Review Commission to look at ways of improving the vehicle insurance system.

His main recommendation was to put in place a no-fault insurance system that was implemented by the provincial government four years later.

Kopstein also spent three years as chairman of the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, as well as being president of the Lions Club of West Kildonan and sitting on the boards of the Sharon Home, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.

Kopstein, whose funeral was on Sunday, is survived by his wife, Jean, three children and four grandchildren.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2014 A4

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