Focus On

Feds announce two new judges for Newfoundland and Labrador

Wednesday, March 27, 2019 @ 2:30 PM | By John Chunn

The federal Department of Justice announced the following judicial appointments for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on March 26:

Michelle A. Coady, counsel at the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission in St. John’s, is appointed a judge of the Supreme Court and a judge ex-officio of the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador. She replaces Justice William H. Goodridge (St. John’s), who was appointed to the Court of Appeal on Oct. 17, 2018.

Katherine O’Brien, partner at O’Brien White in St. John’s, is appointed a judge of the Supreme Court and a judge ex-officio of the Court of Appeal of Newfoundland and Labrador. She replaces Justice David Peddle (Gander), who resigned effective Jan. 31, 2019.

According to Justice Canada’s press release, Justice Coady’s first formal education was in nursing. Initially, the native of St. John’s attended St. Clare’s School of Nursing and graduated in 1992. Shortly after, she successfully completed the registered nursing exams and secured employment with her alma mater. While nursing part time, she furthered her education at the Memorial University of Newfoundland School of Nursing, where she received her bachelor of nursing in 1995.

Later that same year, she turned her mind to law. Justice Coady became a student at Dalhousie in the fall of 1995 and was awarded her bachelor of laws in 1998. She completed articles at O’Dea, Earle Law Offices in St. John's and following her call to the bar, remained at that firm as an associate where she enjoyed a rewarding general practice. In 2007, Justice Coady joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission as a staff solicitor.

During her time with the commission, Justice Coady practised primarily in the areas of family and criminal law. She was the first defence counsel in the Family Violence Intervention Court and recently completed three years as duty counsel at the Supreme Court Family Division in St. John’s. Most recently, Justice Coady held the position of deputy area director with the St. John’s Office of the Legal Aid Commission.

Justice O’Brien was born and raised in St John’s. Following the completion of a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Memorial University in 1996, she began working on a law degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC). After having two children, Bridget and Henry, during the course of her law studies, Justice O’Brien graduated with a law degree from UBC in 2002, though she completed her final year as a transfer student at the University of Toronto.

Justice O’Brien articled at Smart & Biggar in Toronto, specializing in intellectual property.  Among numerous scholarships and academic awards she received in engineering and law, Justice O’Brien was awarded the 2003 Treasurer’s Medal by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

She returned to St John’s with her children and husband, Doug, in 2003 to work with her father, Gerald O’Brien, at his firm O’Brien and Associates. It was a successful collaboration that carried on for almost 16 years, and would lead to the firm becoming O’Brien White Law Group. Justice O’Brien has served a wide range of clients in her career, particularly within the local business community. Aside from her regular practice, her varied roles have included teaching for the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador and serving as counsel for a public commission and co-counsel for two public inquiries.

Outside of legal work, she has dedicated her considerable energy as a volunteer and board member in a number of non-profit organizations, including as chair of the East Coast Trail Association and most recently as chair of Stella’s Circle Foundation.