Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Appoints Richard Wagner as Chief Justice of Supreme Court

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Appoints Richard Wagner as Chief Justice of Supreme Court

Article excerpt

Richard Wagner named high court chief justice


OTTAWA - Montreal-born Richard Wagner, a self-proclaimed advocate of judicial independence, will become the next chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday.

Wagner, 60, was called to the Quebec bar in 1980 and practised law until being appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 2004. He sat in the civil, commercial and criminal divisions of the court until 2011 when he was appointed to the Quebec Court of Appeal.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper named him to the Supreme Court only five years ago, giving Wagner another 15 years to define his legacy as chief justice before the court's mandatory retirement rule kicks in.

Wagner's age may have given him an edge for the job over Rosalie Abella, 71, who was widely seen as the other leading contender for the position. Trudeau had been under pressure to name a Quebecer as chief, in keeping with the tradition of alternating between a civil code jurist from Quebec and a common-law one.

In that respect, the prime minister's choice was likely limited by consideration of experience -- the other two Quebec judges on the court were appointed just three years ago.

The current chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, is stepping down Friday after 28 years on the court, including almost 18 years as chief. McLachlin, 74, is the first woman to hold the top job on the high court and also Canada's longest-serving chief justice.

Wagner is slated to take the oath of office as chief justice next Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, Trudeau said he has the utmost confidence in Wagner's ability to lead the court.

"The judiciary, the legal profession, and all Canadians will be well served by his dedication to upholding the laws and Constitution upon which this country is founded," Trudeau said.

The chief justice fosters decision-making by consensus on the court, holds many leadership and administrative responsibilities and represents the Canadian judiciary at home and abroad, the Prime Minister's Office noted.

Trudeau spoke with Wagner on Monday night. Before choosing the chief justice, he consulted McLachlin, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and leading members of the Canadian legal community. …

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