Thompson provincial court bench: Two down soon

Judge Brian Colli, appointed a judge of the provincial court by order-in-council on Sept. 21, 1994, retired after almost 20 years on the bench at the end of May to move soon with his wife, Sue, who long managed the Thompson Gas Bar Co-op Ltd., to Cape Forchu, Nova Scotia, near Yarmouth.

Judge Murray Thompson, appointed a judge of the provincial court on March 26, 2003, and who served as associate chief judge of the provincial court for seven years, from Aug. 2, 2006 until last Aug. 1, is transferring to Winnipeg soon, although he will continue to hear cases in Thompson for the time being this summer.

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That may leave, at least for a time, Judge Doreen Redhead, appointed to the provincial court bench here on April 4, 2007, as the only resident provincial court judge in Thompson, although a search is onto to replace Colli, who graduated from Dalhousie University law school in Halifax and was admitted to the bar in 1979. Judge Redhead, from Fox Lake Cree Nation, was born in Churchill and is the first aboriginal woman appointed to the provincial court bench in Manitoba. She graduated from the University of Manitoba law school in 1996.

Thompson, with the busiest serious crime provincial court caseload outside of Winnipeg, has had three provincial court judges since Redhead's appointment in 2007.

Unlike superior court judges from the Manitoba Court of Appeal and Court of Queen's Bench, who are federally appointed, provincial court judges are provincially appointed by Manitoba NDP Attorney General Andrew Swan upon the recommendation of the judicial nominating committee.

Aimee Fortier, executive assistant to the chief justices and chief judge and media relations officer for the courts and judiciary in Manitoba, said June 13 in an e-mail that "the judicial nominating committee is in place and steps will be taken [to] conduct their work quickly and have a list of candidates to the minister before June 30.

"What I can add to this," Fortier said, "is that the chief judge recognizes that the community of Thompson will require judicial support in order to maintain the level of service that the community and the court office requires until any new judge is appointed and in the office. The provincial court does make use of a senior judge program that allows for retired judges to sit on a part time basis to assist with meeting the needs of the court. The resources of this program will be made use of to the extent they are available."

It is responsibility of the judicial nominating committee to recommend to Swan a list of not fewer than three and not more than six names of individuals for the position.

Applicants must have practised for not less than five years as a barrister and solicitor in Manitoba, be a member in good standing of The Law Society of Manitoba, and be entitled to practise as a barrister and solicitor in this province, or have other equivalent experience.

They hold office "during good behaviour" and must reside in the province.

Applicants must be willing to reside in Thompson, and be capable of and willing to travel by automobile and small aircraft to circuit courts throughout the province.

Judicial responsibilities will include a caseload of criminal cases and child protection matters.

The application deadline was June 11. As well, "a list for a future position in Thompson, as judge of the provincial court may be created," says the judicial nominating committee notice published May 29.

The judicial nominating committee is comprised of Chief Judge Ken Champagne, who has been chief judge of the provincial court since July 9, 2009, and was appointed to the provincial bench in 2005; three citizens appointed by the province; the president of The Law Society, the President of the Manitoba Bar Association and a representative of the provincial court judges. Champagne began his legal career by articling in the Crown attorney's office in 1993. For many years he worked in Thompson, and was for a time supervising senior Crown attorney here.

The provincial court of Manitoba is established by The Provincial Court Act. It is a court of record and has primarily a criminal jurisdiction, as well as limited concurrent jurisdiction with the Court of Queen's Bench in family law matters that originate outside of Winnipeg. More than 95 per cent of all criminal cases in Manitoba commence in the provincial court.

After an individual is charged, the provincial court hears applications for judicial interim release, more commonly known as bail hearings, presides over first appearances for the accused, and holds preliminary hearings to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to order an accused to stand trial. The provincial court also hears all youth court cases in Manitoba.

In addition to cases under the Criminal Code and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the provincial court hears cases under a variety of other federal statutes, such as: the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and hears all provincial statute cases, such as those under The Highway Traffic Act and The Liquor Control Act. The court also presides over inquests under The Fatality Inquiries Act, and reviews alleged police misconduct under The Law Enforcement Review Act.

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