New Nova Scotia Chief Justice recognized as leader in judicial education

Before the bench, Deborah Smith practised at McInnes Cooper

New Nova Scotia Chief Justice recognized as leader in judicial education
Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Deborah Smith

Nova Scotia’s new chief justice of the Supreme Court is the second woman in the province’s history to hold the position and is recognized by fellow judges and lawyers as a leader in judicial education.

Called to the bar in 1984, Deborah Smith has been a member of the court since 2001 and spent the preceding 17 years at McInnes Cooper, practising civil and family law. In 2004, Smith was made associate chief justice, the first woman in Nova Scotia appointed to that role.

Tilly Pillay, executive director of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, says the province’s regulator is “very pleased” with Smith’s appointment.

“She is an approachable, accomplished jurist, committed to supporting and promoting improvements and best practises,” says Pillay. “It’s wonderful to see a woman of her calibre being recognized in such a way.”

Pillay adds that Smith’s work ethic would continue to be an asset to the court.

“She worked hard in her role as associate chief justice of the Supreme Court, and I have no doubt she will continue to bring that same determination and energy to her new leadership role,” she says. “We look forward to working with her and wish her well.”

Aside from being a lawyer and a judge, Smith is also an educator. She taught at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, teaching civil practice. She has also taught young people in the Nova Scotia bar admission course and new judges in the New Judges School with the National Judicial Institute and Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.

Chief Justice of Nova Scotia Michael Wood said in a Nova Scotia Judiciary press release that Smith is a national leader in judicial education, “helping to ensure Canadian judges are in touch with the society in which they judge.”

Smith is also deeply engaged with the Canadian Judicial Council, the federal supervisor of Canadian judges, made up of chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada’s Superior Courts. She’s a co-chairperson of the CJC’s Judicial Independence and Appointment Process Committee, where she is updating the Ethical Principles for Judges. Smith has also been a member of several committees including the judicial education committee and served in the National Judicial Institute’s board of governors.

During her tenure on Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court, Smith sat on the family division from 2001 until 2004, before moving to the general division after being appointed associate chief justice.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment June 24. Smith will replace Joseph Kennedy, who held the position since 1998 and retired earlier this year.

Nova Scotia’s first female Supreme Court chief justice was Constance Glube, appointed in 1993. She became chief justice of the province in 1998.

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