Colleagues ‘delighted’ as Richards becomes Saskatchewan’s chief justice

On Sunday Robert G. Richards becomes the newest chief justice of Saskatchewan.

Richards has served as an associate justice on the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal since 2004.

Richards replaces Chief Justice John Klebuc, who retires at the end of the month. Klebuc elected supernumerary status, which under the Judges Act allows the former chief justice to remain on the bench while hearing a reduced number of appeals.

Justice Ralph Ottenbreit has been Richards’ colleague on the Court of Appeal since 2009. He describes Richards as “an excellent jurist” who is “hard working, insightful, and well liked.”

“His appointment is very good for our court and the administration of justice in the province,” says Ottenbreit. “I am confident that he will be an excellent chief justice.”

Justice Stuart Cameron is the senior judge on the court. He will swear Richards in on July 2.

“To me it’s an honour to be swearing him in,” says Cameron. “We’re very delighted with this, and that’s true of all my colleagues.”

Richards was recruited to Saskatchewan’s highest court directly from the bar. “And that was because he was such an outstanding counsel,” says Cameron. “The court itself was anxious to have him.”

“He’s a very disciplined thinker, and a very disciplined worker,” which is important given all the extra responsibilities associated with the position of chief justice, he adds.

In addition to his role on the Canadian Judicial Council, the chief justice has to attend to a number of other functions, such as chairing the provincial judicial council. The role can be distracting for a scholar, but Cameron predicts he will handle the distractions well.

“It’s a joy to sit down with him and talk about a legal problem, because he picks up on things so quickly and he has such a wealth of knowledge and experience,” says Cameron. “He’s become — in the course of the 10 years he was here — a mainstay of the court.

“For myself, and I know I speak on behalf of my colleague in some respect, I’ve just got a tremendous respect and regard for him. I think he’s going to be a very fine chief justice.”

Richards has law degree from the University of Saskatchewan and an LLM from Harvard University. He served as director of constitutional law, and executive director of public law and policy at the Saskatchewan Department of Justice from 1985 to 1990. Afterwards he practised law with MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman in Regina from 1990 to 2004, primarily in the areas of public law litigation and appeals.

Richards has been a director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies since 2011. He is a council member of the International Commission of Jurists, and a past co-chairman of the national constitutional and human rights law section of the Canadian Bar Association.

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