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Ottawa appoints two judges to Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Friday, February 01, 2019 @ 12:01 PM | By John Chunn

Justice Canada announced the following two judicial appointments for the province of Ontario on Jan. 31:
William S. Chalmers, managing partner at Hughes Amys LLP, is appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. He replaces Justice S.R. Goodman, who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective Oct. 22, 2018.

Shaun O’Brien, general counsel and executive director at Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF), is appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto. She replaces Justice C.T. Hackland (Ottawa), who elected to become a supernumerary judge effective Oct. 28, 2018. Due to internal transfers effected by the chief justice, this position is in Toronto.

Justice Chalmers was born in London, Ont., and grew up in various communities across the country. He attended grade school in Halifax and high school in Vancouver before his family settled in Toronto. He studied political science and economics at the University of Toronto and attended Osgoode Hall Law School, where he received several awards, including prizes in contracts and criminal law.

Called to the Ontario bar in 1987, Justice Chalmers practised law at Hughes Amys for over 30 years. Before shifting his focus exclusively to insurance defence litigation Justice Chalmers practised in a number of different areas including family, criminal, commercial litigation and administrative law. As an insurance defence lawyer, he handled over a thousand cases involving a wide range of insurance disputes, including arson and fraud, personal injury, product liability, class actions and insurance coverage. He was counsel in numerous reported decisions at all levels of court in Ontario. He was selected by his peers for recognition as an expert in insurance law.

For 12 years, until his appointment to the judiciary, Justice Chalmers served as the managing partner of his firm. Over that period of time, Hughes Amys grew into a culturally diverse firm where the majority of the lawyers are women.

In addition to his busy professional life, Justice Chalmers has been active in his community. He volunteered as a Scout leader and coached many soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey teams. As a Scout leader and coach, he had the opportunity to work with hundreds of young people. Justice Chalmers and his wife Sandra have two sons who are completing their studies and are about to embark on their own careers as lawyers.

Justice O’Brien was born in Montreal, raised in Calgary, and for many years has lived in Toronto with her husband and three children. She graduated from Queen’s University with a B.A. (Honours) in English and received her LL.B. from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, in 1998. She clerked for Justice Barry Strayer at the Federal Court of Appeal and was called to the Ontario bar in 2000.

Justice O’Brien began her litigation career at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. In 2002, she joined Cavalluzzo LLP, where she practised for 16 years in a wide range of areas, including professional regulation, civil litigation, labour law, administrative law, defamation and constitutional law. Justice O’Brien focused on systemic human rights and Charter challenges, including a challenge on behalf of nurses in recovery from mental illnesses and a challenge to the repeal of the federal long gun registry on behalf of women experiencing violence. She also argued complex professional regulatory discipline cases, often involving sexual misconduct or incompetence. In addition, she was lead counsel in a successful Supreme Court challenge to limits on voting rights for Canadian citizens living outside the country (Frank v. Attorney General of Canada).

Most recently, Justice O’Brien represented LEAF in several interventions related to the equality rights of women and girls and made submissions to parliamentary committees. Justice O’Brien is the past president of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which provides services to women experiencing violence. She has also prioritized mentoring young women lawyers throughout her career.

Justice O’Brien spends most of her free time with her family and close friends, often attending her children’s events and sporting activities. She is an avid reader and enjoys running, snowshoeing, paddleboarding, yoga, tennis and travel.