|For immediate release||June 29, 2000|
Karl F. Warner, Q.C. Address on the occasion of the elevation of Mr. Justice Robert Metzger and Mr. Justice Richard Brooke, Q.C. to the Supreme Court of British Columbia
Check against delivery.
Chief Justice Brenner, Associate CJ, my Lords and Ladies members of this Court, Mr. Justice Metzger, Mr. Justice Brooke, Mr. Attorney, my friends at counsel table, colleagues, family and friends of all:
I am pleased to appear before you today on behalf of the Benchers and members of the Law Society of British Columbia. Today, we witness an official changing of hats… and robes, as it were… as the former Provincial Court Chief Judge Metzger and as T. Richard Brooke, Q.C. join the BC Supreme Court as the newest members of the distinguished Kelowna Bench.
His Lordship Justice Metzger leaves his very important work as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court to take on an another challenging position here in Kelowna which, parenthetically, has been described to me as the heart of the Okanagan. On the other hand and without me giving or getting a lesson in provincial anatomy or geopolitics, I am told, Mr. Justice Brooke in assuming the position as a judge of the Kelowna court, feels that in moving from Penticton, he is being taken from the heart of the Okanagan.
Before going to the specific, let me take this opportunity at the outset to observe that our judiciary and this court in particular is an integral and fundamental part of our democratic systems and the Law Society welcomes both of these appointments as appropriate additions to enhance the strength of this court in order to keep it vital, vigourous, and vigilant. The task of judging is not an easy job in this day and age and the role of a BC Supreme Court Justice is now more important than ever before. Kelowna is like other parts of this beautiful province which responds to justice issues with fervent interest. But, fervent interest, if remaining uninformed, can contribute to an erosion of judicial independence, even though advanced with the best of intentions. Uninformed criticism which continues unabated causes pressure and must be squarely faced. Thus, judges are increasingly looked upon to perform an educational as well as an adjudicative function. In my view, this additional role is just another evolutionary step in our development of delivering justice to the people and ultimately will strengthen the court’s good and necessary work. But the Courts can not be alone in facing the criticism and pressure. There is no doubt, as citizens scrutinize our institutions more closely, as governments ask us all to do more with less, the onus is on each and every one of us in the justice system to work better, smarter and more responsively and to help one another evolve a justice product that remains balanced but is improved from the public’s perspective. The trick for all of us is to ensure that our courts are able to be flexible in designing solutions for ever changing and even newer problems that are coming towards us at light speed while at the same time ensuring that historically enshrined fundamentals and protections are not left out or forgotten in the process.
It bears remembering that the Supreme Court of BC is really a successor to that 17th Century Court of King's Bench — a court of First instance and one of inherent jurisdiction which is the fount of many of our present day freedoms. Early development of the prerogative writs out of that court such as habeas corpus gave birth to ideas clearing the way for much later legislative initiatives like our present Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And it took brave judges in that other time to advance these protections to the individual in the face of dangerous power, whatever its source, from the hysterically whipped masses or the powerful few. Wisdom and bravery are words that are easily said but demanding in application, both then and now. Moreover, judicial analysis and reasoning is made all the more difficult now because, when striving for the transparency that our democracy requires, we know that not only will many embark on second guessing the decision but that second guessing will likely take place by those with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. My only point to saying all of this is to remind us all that judging is a difficult calling and we are very fortunate to be able to attract men and women who are up to this task and we should thank them for answering to the call. Indeed, there are very few people able to undertake the job, one which requires that special combination of people skills, legal acumen, business savvy, and a dedication to understanding human nature at times when some of us in society can be most vulnerable.
But let me turn to those who have moved to the Bench today.
I am told that Mr. Justice Metzger has always demonstrated the desired mix of qualities so important to those serving on the bench. Indeed, I have read stories in The Advocate about His Lordship, one penned by none other than former Master Treasurer and your fellow Mr. Justice Grant Burnyeat, that speaks to His Lordship's legal excellence, multi-tasking ability, musicianship, entrepreneurship and perhaps most importantly, a sense of humour arising out of a penchant for lumberjack songs and skits about ex-parrots.
One of his former law partners and law school classmates, one Trudi Brown, Q.C., told me that His Lordship who in another life was known as "Rocket Bob" was so apparently excellent at note taking in law school and so apparently authoritative that his notes, when wrong, although I am compelled to quickly say that this was rare, had the power of leading the majority of the class precipitously astray. Mind you, I am told that he reeked of authority which he enhanced in no small way by his penchant for Mont Blanc pens which he would whip out with a flourish in order to underline any point should the recipient of his wisdom show any doubt at all when examining a suspect note.
Too, there is something truly interesting about a BC Supreme Court judge whose background from long ago hails from the retail sector. As many here know, His Lordship cut his teeth in business in the banking business and with the Hudson Bay Company, where clients and employees were of primary interest. I think it is safe to say that Mr. Justice Metzger has shown that his executive management training at the Bay, coupled with his academic studies in psychology and law, have served him well, for he is renowned for having his finger on the pulse of the people involved in the court system … from gauging their expectations and introducing new and innovative programs to them, to communicating effectively with colleagues, the bar, litigants, some of society's poorest and most disenfranchised and, in no small way, the media. Throughout, His Lordship has been accessible, entrepreneurial and approachable… characteristics which will surely be beneficial to the BC Supreme Court bench.
Mr. Justice Metzger not only brings a sense of the change in the way we serve the people and the way they want to be served, I also believe that there is much we can learn from the unique experiences that he brings with him to this court. I know that we at the Law Society have watched him closely over the years and have admired his ability to live and promote the finest qualities prevalent in the BC justice system. I am sure he will be an outstanding Supreme Court justice and a valuable resource to one and all.
I turn now to Mr. Justice Brooke who was not as well known to me but it didn't take me long to understand that here was a man very highly regarded as well. It is not often one receives the universal plaudits of his or her fellows but I was told that "there has not been a more popular appointment to the Bench in the Okanagan" although I faintly heard "notwithstanding yet another one from Penticton."
Anyhow I telephoned a partner to see if I could get some information regarding Mr. Justice Brooke and finally caught up with one who returned my calls last weekend. This delayed response was after a number of calls which initially caused me concern but which I later discovered to be for very good reason. Besides his other attributes that be described, I was told that he has a very necessary characteristic for all professionals in ample supply- compassion. This is very necessary in a lawyer so that how news is brought to people is done in an appropriate way. But compassion is to be balanced with the need to be able to deliver bad news to people — eg. You have to be able to say…"You haven't got a case"; "I'm sorry, you'll have to spend some time in gaol"; "or my fee is going to very costly." Well, it turns out that the whole firm was in the office last weekend going though all of Mr. Justice Brookes' files so that his practice could be properly wound down only to discover that there was a lot more compassion in some of those files than they expected to find.
I learned as well that Mr. Justice Brooke was like me, a Winnipeger by birth. But life reveals destiny to each of our in different ways. Putting my personal revelation aside, with respect to Mr. Justice Brooke, I was told that common sense came to the then young student at United College, Mr. Brooke, at a bus stop in Winnipeg near the Cambridge Hotel in March in the mid-1960's. He had in tow a 6 pack of beer which, when you think about it, is a time of year when only a Winnipeger would be out looking for a cold beer. As well, I feel compelled to add that there is another sign here of someone not destined to stay in Winnipeg. A true Winnipeger, especially a United College student would have had a full case, you don't stop at 6 pack when a case of 24 was available. Anyhow, in that moment of cold reflection, that young student decided to move to BC. He then somehow came under the guidance of Mr. Bruce Preston (now Mr. Justice Preston) who persuaded him to go to UBC and the rest is history and we are all now the better off for it.
Mr. Justice Brooke has been described to me as being a great person, a gentleman and very capable with very broad experience. He is also very highly regarded as both a barrister and solicitor and as I have said his appointment is very much applauded by all of us.
In his 30 years of practice, His Lordship developed a successful civil litigation and personal injury law practice and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1989. Most recently, Mr. Justice Brooke branched out into the client friendly world of mediation and arbitration. I am sure these skills will be particularly useful to the Bench, as the courts continue to consider alternatives to our traditional dispute resolution approaches.
I am told that that it is safe to say that his Lordship is somewhat of an institution here in the Okanagan, having been a former president of the Penticton and District Bar Association, the city solicitor for the City of Penticton for many years, and a member of the Attorney-General's Rules Committee. I will leave further comments to others now.
On behalf of the Law Society of British Columbia and our 10,000 members, we congratulate both Mr. Justice Metzger and Mr. Justice Brookes on this memorable occasion and we offer each of them our full support as they join the BC Supreme Court. Your Lordships, we wish you the very best of luck and look forward to working with you in your new roles. Thank you.