Allan McEachern 1926 - 2008

January 11, 2008

The Law Society is deeply saddened by the passing of former Chief Justice Allan McEachern on January 10.

"Judges and lawyers will remember the clarity and precision of his judgments, his professional courtesy, his humility, his capacity for hard work and, above all, his sense of humour," said John Hunter, QC, President of the Law Society.

"One of Mr. McEachern's greatest achievements was to open up the courts not just to the people of BC, but to the entire world via the internet," Mr. Hunter said. "In 1996, he pushed the courts to develop a website and to post judgments so the public could have instant, cost-effective access to legal decisions. Then he went a step further by hosting his own website and inviting the public to email their questions about the legal system. He was certainly the first chief justice in Canada -- if not the first judge in the world -- to step out of judicial cloisters and make himself accessible to everyone through the internet."

Mr. Hunter noted that Mr. McEachern also had a profound impact on court reforms that made the legal system faster, better and cheaper for its users. Mr. McEachern was also the driving force behind the Inns of Court program, a series of educational seminars for young lawyers that began in 1984.

Mr. McEachern was called to the BC Bar in 1951 and was one of Canada's most respected barristers before his appointment as Chief Justice of the BC Supreme Court in 1979. He was appointed Chief Justice of BC in 1988. In 2001, Mr. McEachern retired from the Bench and returned to private law practice.

He served as a Law Society Bencher from 1971 to 1979, as president of the Legal Aid Society from 1977 to 1978 and as an elected representative of the Vancouver Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association.

In private life, he had a keen involvement in the local rugby scene and the Canadian Football League, serving as a director of the BC Lions in the 1960s and as league Commissioner from 1967 to 1968.

In addition to practising law after his retirement from the courts, Mr. McEachern held positions at the University of BC law school and was appointed the university's Chancellor in 2002.

"Everyone who has ever used a court in Canada has been touched by Allan McEachern in some way, whether they know it or not," Mr. Hunter said. "His judgments, his reforms and his commitment to demystifying the legal system have had an impact that will continue far beyond his lifetime. He will be missed."

At this time, the Law Society is not aware of a public memorial service. If one is planned, details will be posted on the Law Society's website.