The Honourable Chief Justice Robert Bauman

On September 21, 2009, the Honourable Mr. Justice Robert Bauman was sworn in as the 15th Chief Justice of Supreme Court of British Columbia. A well-respected judge, he had served for 13 years on the trial and appellate courts of this province. His appointment by the Prime Minister was universally well received by the public and the court.

The Chief Justice's family moved from Toronto, where he was born, to Montreal when he was a young boy. He was educated at Loyola High School and Loyola College, and ultimately obtained a degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. From an early age, his dream was to become a lawyer. He attended the University of Toronto Law School and, as good fortune would have it, during his first year of law school he met the love of his life, his wife now of 35 years, Sue.

Much like the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Sir Matthew Begbie, Bob had a desire not only to live in British Columbia, but to travel in the interior of BC. With his place on the podium for the silver medal at law school firmly in place, he made a dramatic move from Toronto to Prince George for articles with Wilson King. Before leaving on the cross-Canada road trip to British Columbia, he presented his wife with a book that was inscribed: "From Here to Paradise." The young couple settled in Prince George, and their sons, Rob and Dave, were born in 1975 and 1977. Bob soon became a partner at Wilson King, a firm founded many years earlier by the father of J.O. Wilson, the eighth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of B.C. In 1978, he joined Galt Wilson to practise in Kelowna under the firm name of Wilson Bauman. By this time, still early in his career, he was already considered a leading expert in administrative law and local government law, subjects on which he wrote and taught extensively. In 1982, he moved with his family to Vancouver, where he joined Bull Housser & Tupper, the former home of two other Chief Justice, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, now Chief Justice of Canada, and the Honourable William Esson, respectively the 11th and the 12th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He practised there for 14 years.

The hallmarks of the Chief Justice's practice as a lawyer were hard work, extensive preparation, inclusive argument and concise writing. The Chief Justice continued to display these traits after he was appointed to the court in 1996. He quickly developed a reputation as an excellent judge, handling difficult cases in all areas of the law-civil, criminal and family-with skill, courtesy and good humour. Mr Justice Bauman was invariably calm, respectful, astute and efficient. He was known for his ability to isolate the important issue or issues in the case, and to explain his decisions in clear, uncomplicated language. His writing in single-sentence paragraphs is unique. His judgment-writing style, like his physical structure, is compact.

Bob's sense of humour is always present, usually self-deprecating, but never mean-spirited. Given that, and his love of language, it is not surprising that he was asked by Chief Justice McEachern, the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, to take over the editing of "Doublespeak", an annual collection of verbal missteps made in the heat of litigating. One example will suffice: one counsel, in the throes of a cross-examination, asked a beleaguered witness, "Sir, did you have a birthday last year?"

Appointed to the Court of Appeal in 2008, he served in that capacity until September 2009, when he returned to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice. The new Chief is deeply dedicated to the fairness, independence and impartiality of the courts and to the importance of meaningful access to the justice system. He has become Chief Justice at a time when access to justice is increasingly threatened and when there is intense scrutiny of the courts and the justice system. In the years ahead, the court will likely see significant changes in the nature of litigation and the parties who come before it. With the assistance and support of his colleagues, the Chief Justice will shepherd the court through new and changing social circumstances. Having practised law "up the country", he will be conscious of the fact that he leads the Supreme Court of British Columbia, not the Supreme Court of Vancouver.

Chief Justice Bauman has a big heart. He is an empathetic and compassionate individual. He recognizes that judges most serve the community as a whole, in all of its diversity. He has for many years been assisted in understanding these issues by his wife, Sue, who is the executive director of Family Services of the North Shore, a non-profit organization that provides education, support and counselling to those who live on the North Shore. Beyond his family and the law, which are his twin passions, his interests are more mundane. In the past 20 years he has become an avid golfer, caught up in all-and I do mean all-of the trappings of the game. One particularly strong aspect of a good-looking but otherwise inconsistent game is his play of bunkers, hence the nom-de-golf, De Sand. His administrative skills came to the fore in the court's gold tournament, the Rough Justice Invitational, when after careful organization of the foursomes he became a member of the winning team of the tournament. This organizational skill should hold him in good stead while setting the daily rota for the court.

The Chief Justice, although traditional, is not inflexible. As a year-round golfer, he created and instituted the "leaf rule" which allows a player not to claim a lost ball if it might be under one of the many leaves that covers his Point Grey golf course in the autumn. The Chief Justice would describe this as filling a lacuna or gap in the rules, something that appears quite reasonable. However, his partners found themselves quite distressed early one spring to see His Lordship climbing a tree and shaking it in order to invoke the "leaf rule."

The Chief Justice takes pride in being nattily dressed and well appointed. If there was any Chief Justice interested in reinstituting wigs, something prohibited since the time of Chief Justice Gordon Hunter (the fourth Chief Justice), our current Chief would be a likely candidate. However, other more serious projects are likely to occupy his time. The Chief Justice has excellent taste and believes that aesthetics matter. He is an enthusiast for the Arthur-Erickson-designed Vancouver courthouse and will do his best to preserve and protect it as the treasure that it is.

Bob and Sue have two sons and two daughters-in-law, of whom they are justly proud. Bob performed the marriage of his son Rob to Angela, and performed the marriage of his son Dave to Ashley. All four young people are active in the community. Rob is the director of operations for a global media and Internet technology company, and Angela is the principal of a strategic philanthropy consulting firm. Dave recently worked for VANOC on the "venue look" for BC Place and Thunderbird Stadium for the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Ashley is a vice-president for a marketing and advertising firm. Bob and Sue have downsized to the extent that their cat and dog have been outsourced to their children on a revolving loan.

On January 21, 2010, the new Chief Justice and George McIntosh QC joined emceed a dinner of over 500 attendees to recognize the accomplishments of Chief Justice Donald Brenner (the 14th Chief Justice), who led the court with distinction during the first decade of this century. Brenner C.J. left the Supreme Court to his successor in excellent shape. It comprises not only the judges, but also the court staff, sheriffs, legal assistants, librarians and law clerks who are all dedicated to ensuring that justice is administered in a fair and accessible manner. The Chief is responsible for a large and complex organization. Chief Justice Bauman's leadership will establish its character for the second decade of the 21st century.

Reproduced from The Advocate, May 2010

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