Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nope to Oppal - no way former BC Liberal Attorney General can be appointed Chief Provincial Court Judge

Nope to Wally Oppal as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia

UPDATE - Wally Oppal is out of luck - the new Chief Judge appointed today is Thomas James Crabtree, who is currently a judge based in Chilliwack.

Attorney General Mike de Jong is to be congratulated on making a wise choice.


While I was on vacation a most astonishing and wrongheaded suggestion was made - that former BC Liberal Attorney General Wally Oppal might become the next Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia!

Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer outlined the situation on February 17 and to date no decision has been made but amazingly Oppal is still one of the possible candidates for the job.

Wally Oppal had a distinguished career as a BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal justice.

But when he opted to get into electoral politics, winning in 2005 to become BC Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Fraserview and the Attorney General, his judicial career was over, period.

That the BC Liberals are apparently seriously considering appointing one of their own former cabinet ministers to a position that should be well outside of any partisan politics shows how far they have fallen - and how poor their own judgment is.

Oppal is a talented and affable fellow - I personally like him - but he does not belong back on the bench and especially in such an important and sensitive position after his political career crashed in Delta South in 2009.

Oppal should be a valuable asset to dozens of law firms - or even somewhere in government - but definitely not as Chief Judge.

The multiple reasons should be obvious to any observer - but since the BC Liberals don't seem to get it, here's one big one.

Wally Oppal earned the nickname of "Stonewally" for his obfuscating answers - or more precisely non-answers - to questions in the BC Legislature regarding the upcoming trial of David Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi - the BC Legislature Raid corruption case connected to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail in 2003.

Even issues not remotely connected to the case were dodged by Oppal, who at that point was the cabinet minister most responsible for legal issues in the province.

To appoint Oppal just as that case is finally coming to trial would be outrageous beyond belief.

What signal would the BC Liberals be sending to the courts, to both judges and lawyers if a highly politicized former cabinet minister went back to the bench just as that political scandal trial began?

But forget Basi-Virk - what signal would it send even if the BC Rail case had concluded before Oppal was appointed? That former politicians are welcome to apply for top judicial jobs less than a year after losing an election?

That political considerations are foremost in provincial decisions in making key judicial appointments? That patronage is more important than propriety?

Wally Oppal should not be in consideration for the position of Chief Judge - and that should be made clear immediately.



Anonymous said...

Most any lawyer, like me, who has had anything to do with Wally likes him. That's not the point when it comes to this appointment. The optics of political patronage and political interference in what is supposed to be an independent judiciary are terrible.

Anonymous said...

Only one comment so far? Migawd, this is an issue basic to our whole governmental system--separation of the judiciary from administration and legislative arms. Any government that would make such an appointment deserves to be dismissed summarily. Which doesn't give a secure feeling to voters, does it? The amiable and competent Mr. Oppal must find another occupation. Anonymoustoo.

tamater sammich said...

I agree with anonymous who said, "Any government that would make such an appointment deserves to be dismissed summarily." And even though I live hours out of Vancouver, I'd make a trip there for marching in the streets, if they're stupid enough to try this.