Less than two years after his retirement from the bench, former B.C. Supreme Court justice Donald Brenner has died.
Brenner, 64, served nine years in the top job with the B.C. court. He retired in 2009 and had been a judge since 1993. He passed away suddenly on Saturday, but no further details are available.
Upon his retirement, Brenner wrote an article for the Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch’s BarTalk. Here are some of his thoughts on the courts and the role of a chief justice: “In today’s world one of the few constants is unremitting and indeed accelerating change. Managing that change to improve the court system and access to our court must always be a significant part of a chief justice’s role. Leading our court further into the digital age will also be an important task facing my successor.
“A chief justice must remain ever vigilant to guard against any erosion of the independence of either the courts or the bar. Without an independent bench and bar, the rule of law is but a hollow phrase.”
The Canadian Judicial Council released a statement this morning on behalf of Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. “He was a highly respected member of the Canadian Judicial Council for over nine years,” said the statement from McLachlin, who’s also chairwoman of the CJC. “All council members remember him as a perfect gentleman with a great sense of justice. His work in the areas of access to justice, professional development, judicial independence, and technology was of great value to the citizens of British Columbia and to the judiciary across Canada.”
News of Brenner’s death sparked sadness among British Columbia’s legal community. The B.C. Supreme Court “is shocked and saddened at the news of the sudden death of Don Brenner,” said current Chief Justice Robert Bauman. “Our thoughts are very much with Don’s wife Robin and his family at this time.”
“This is an absolute shock,” Wally Oppal, a former Supreme Court justice under Brenner and former B.C. attorney-general told The Province newspaper. “He provided a quiet, firm leadership and he was highly respected by the judges and the members of the bar.”
Following his retirement from the bench, Brenner practised at Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP, a firm he spent a summer with as a law student in 1968. “We was a prince of a lawyer,” firm chairman Keith Mitchell told the Vancouver Sun.
He was born in Toronto but his family moved to British Columbia when Brenner was only 4. In addition to being a judge, he was also an airline pilot, who at one time flew Boeing 737s.
Brenner had been a lawyer since 1971 and had developed a niche practice in aeronautic cases, according to the Sun. He leaves behind his widow and two daughters.