Bennett was today promoted to the BC Court of Appeal, meaning a new justice must be appointed to oversee the case against former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk and former government communications aide Aneal Basi in connection with the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.
The case is still in the pre-trial stage, with a series of defence applications for disclosure rulings still to be heard, as well a wide-ranging defence application to have the charges thrown out of court.
And both the defence and special prosecutor teams are awaiting an important decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on whether it will uphold Bennett's ruling on secret witness testimony - a decision upheld by the BC Court of Appeal but appealed to the country's top court by Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino.
Berardino told Canadian Press today that Bennett's departure will not slow down the case further.
CP reports that Berardino said Bennett sent a memo assuring all sides the change won't cause more delays in a case that began with a high-profile police raid of the provincial legislature in December 2003.
"The trial judge's memorandum confirms, in my view, that her appointment to the Court of Appeal will not affect the timing of the case," Berardino told CP in an interview.
Berardino couldn't discuss what Bennett said in her memo.
* * * * *UPDATE SATURDAY MAY 16
The Vancouver Sun's Neal Hall reports today that David Basi's defence lawyer Michael Bolton is surprised but not alarmed that Bennett has been promoted off the case - and that in an unusual move, she will continue to hear some of the pre-trial applications.
"It's unusual in a situation like this where there has been extensive pre-trial motions," defence lawyer Michael Bolton told Hall.
"She will continue hearing part of the case," he added. "She has a very good grip on the case."
* * * * *
My understanding from legal sources is that judges apply to fill vacant positions, as opposed to being approached about an appointment.
Bennett was previously best known as the judge who acquitted former BC NDP Premier Glen Clark of breach of trust charges in 2002 over allegations concerning a casino license.
The official announcement of the appointment came - on the Friday afternoon of a long weekend - from the federal Conservative government - the relevant section follows:
BRITISH COLUMBIA JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS ANNOUNCED
OTTAWA, May 15, 2009 - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, today announced the following appointment:
The Honourable Elizabeth A. Bennett, a Judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, is appointed a Judge of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. Madam Justice Bennett replaces Mr. Justice R.T.A. Low in Vancouver.
Madam Justice Bennett received her education at Simon Fraser University and went to Law School at the University of British Columbia. She was called to the Bar of British Columbia in 1982. Madam Justice Bennett was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994 and was appointed a judge of the British Columbia Supreme Court in 1997.