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Ottawa appoints four judges to N.S. Supreme Court’s Family Division

Monday, March 09, 2020 @ 1:14 PM | By John Chunn

The federal Department of Justice announced March 9 that four judges have been appointed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s Family Division, the first step in the move toward a single, unified court for all family law matters in the province.

According to the government’s press release, Justice Raymond A. Morse was appointed to serve in Truro; Justice Michelle K. Christenson will serve primarily in Yarmouth and Digby; Justice Pamela Marche will preside in Sydney; and Justice Paul Morris was appointed in Pictou. The appointments are effective immediately.

“Our bench has been eagerly awaiting these new appointments and we are very pleased with the experience and calibre of the individuals who will be joining us on the court,” said Chief Justice Deborah K. Smith of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. “These appointments are important to Nova Scotians dealing with family law issues. Having more judges hearing family matters on a unified family court will help reduce delays and make the process clearer and less stressful for everyone.”

Up until now, in areas outside of the Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton, family law matters were heard in either the family court of Nova Scotia or the Supreme Court (Family Division), and sometimes in both courts.

The Supreme Court (Family Division), a unified family court, has jurisdiction to hear all family law matters, including divorce and the division of property. The Family Division currently sits in Halifax, Sydney and Port Hawkesbury.

Changes made to the province’s Judicature Act last March allow for an additional seven federal judges to be appointed to the Supreme Court (Family Division) to support the expansion of the unified family court model to other areas of the province. These appointments are the first four of those seven positions.

Justice Morse and Justice Christenson previously presided on the family court of Nova Scotia. Justice Morse also served as the associate chief judge of the family court since 2015. Justice Marche and Justice Morris are new appointments.

Justice Morse was born in Sydney. He attended Dalhousie University, graduating with a BA in 1974 and his LL.B. from Dalhousie Law School in 1977. He went on to article with Patterson Smith Matthews and Grant in Truro and joined the firm as an associate in 1978 when he was admitted to the Nova Scotia bar. He became a partner in 1986 and received his Queen’s Counsel designation in 1999.

Justice Christenson received her BA from Mount Allison University with first class honours in 1992 and her LL.B. from the University of New Brunswick in 1995. In 2002, she completed her licentiate and master’s degree in Canon Law from Saint Paul University in Ottawa.

Justice Christenson practised primarily family law with Pink MacDonald Harding and later Warner Jacquard. In 2003, she joined the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, where she worked as a senior Crown attorney until the time of her first appointment in 2013.

Justice Marche was born and raised in Stephenville, N.L. She attended St. Francis Xavier University, where she received a BA. In 1995, she obtained her LL.B. from Dalhousie Law School, where she was awarded the A.S. Patillo Prize for Advocacy (Smith Shield). In 2010, she earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Victoria.

As a lawyer, Justice Marche practised with the law firm of Ryan & Ryan and with the Nova Scotia Legal Aid Commission, before joining the Court Services Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice in 1999. Over the past 20 years of public service, Justice Marche developed and implemented a wide variety of family justice services and programs within the Differential Response to Conflict Resolution framework. She was the recipient of the Nova Scotia Premier’s Award of Excellence in 2007 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2017.

Justice Morris was raised in Nova Scotia, where he obtained a BA from Acadia University and his LL.B. from Dalhousie University Law School. He was called to the bar in 1998 and practised as an associate and later as a partner with Patterson Law. His legal focus was primarily on family and insurance law. Most recently, Justice Morris was working as lead counsel with the Mi’kmaw Family and Children’s Services of Nova Scotia.