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Ottawa appoints three judges to Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

Friday, March 06, 2020 @ 2:03 PM | By John Chunn


The federal Department of Justice announced on March 6 the appointment of three judges to Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

Melanie Hayes-Richards, a judge of the provincial court of Alberta, is appointed a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Justice Hayes-Richards fills one of two remaining positions authorized further to the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

Nathan J. Whitling, appellate counsel at Aloneissi O’Neill Hurley O’Keeffe Millsap Liberty Law in Edmonton, is appointed a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Justice Whitling replaces Justice Ken G. Nielsen (Edmonton), who was appointed associate chief justice effective May 17, 2019.

Shaina Leonard, deputy chief federal prosecutor at the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Edmonton, is appointed a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Justice Leonard fills the last remaining position authorized further to the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

According to the Department of Justice’s press release, Justice Hayes-Richards was born in Pointe Claire, Que., and raised in Vancouver. After obtaining her BA from Simon Fraser University in criminology, she moved to Edmonton in 1995 and obtained a bachelor of laws from the University of Alberta. Since 2018, she has served on the provincial court of Alberta in the Criminal Division.

Before her appointment to the bench, Justice Hayes-Richards practised primarily in the area of criminal law, working as a Crown prosecutor and as legal counsel for the Alberta Court of Appeal. She has taught criminal law courses for police, prosecutors, law students and others in the legal community.

Justice Whitling graduated from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law in 1997 and was awarded the Horace Harvey Gold Medal in Law. In 1998, he obtained his master of laws degree from Harvard Law School. In 1999-2000, he served as a law clerk to Justice John Major of the Supreme Court of Canada. Justice Whitling has recently been appointed Queen’s Counsel.

For the first 15 years of his career, Justice Whitling carried on a diverse litigation practice at two large civil firms. He then moved to a criminal defence firm, where he focused his efforts on criminal appeals.

Justice Whitling has argued cases before the appellate courts of Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, as well as the Federal Court of Appeal. He has also argued many cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Justice Leonard was born in Saint John. She graduated from McGill University in 1999 and from the University of Alberta Law School in 2002. During the summers, she worked full time as a maritime surface officer with the Royal Canadian Navy, Naval Reserve. Justice Leonard clerked with the Alberta Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary. She was called to the bar in 2003 and joined the firm of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Calgary.

In 2006, Justice Leonard joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a legal officer. In 2009, she was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, where she worked alongside American military lawyers as a legal mentor to the Afghan National Army. In 2012, Justice Leonard returned to the Naval Reserve and began full-time employment with the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC). In 2017, she became the deputy chief federal prosecutor for the Alberta Region of the PPSC.

Inspired by her deployment to Afghanistan, Justice Leonard completed her LL.M. in 2014 at the University of Alberta with a focus on international law and post-conflict peacebuilding. For the last three years, she helped coach the University of Alberta Laskin Moot team.