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Prime minister promotes judges

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper elevated Manitoba Court of Appeal judge Richard Chartier to chief justice of Manitoba in one of two court appointments the Prime Minister's Office announced Friday.

In the second appointment, Shane Perlmutter, a Queen's Bench judge, was made associate chief justice.

Chartier replaced the Honourable Richard J. Scott, who retired March 1.

Perlmutter replaced the Honourable William J. Burnett, who was appointed to the Manitoba Court of Appeal.

Chartier served as a provincial court judge from 1993 to 2006 when he was elevated to the Court of Appeal. Perlmutter was appointed to the Queen's Bench in 2011.

The appointments take effective immediately.

Both judges have shown they're not afraid to take a stand from the bench in their recent rulings.

Chartier staunchly defended the justice system in a couple of recent controversial cases.

In October, he wrote the decision to reject a bid to dismiss one of the more unique homicide cases in recent history.

In that case, Suzanne Eckstein, 46, was charged with arson, conspiracy and manslaughter -- despite the fact it was the victim who apparently caused his own death. She was arrested in 2008 and the case slowly moved through the justice system. In rejecting the dismissal in a ruling last October, Chartier wrote there was no evidence to toss the case.

The trial, when it does go ahead, is expected to be watched closely by legal experts across Canada.

In another ruling, also last October, Chartier quashed a claim of wrongful conviction in a killer's appeal.

William Henderson, who pleaded not guilty in the execution-style 2002 slaying of Frehley McKay, filed documents claiming he got an unfair trial, citing nearly two dozen grounds for ordering a new hearing. They included evidence the judge refused to exclude, instructions to the jury and rejecting four mistrial applications. Henderson also cited "fresh evidence" -- a witness who emerged after the trial ended, claiming he saw the killer, and it wasn't Henderson.

The Manitoba Court of Appeal decision, also written by Chartier, rejected the bid on all grounds.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 9, 2013 A12

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