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Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister is drawing fire from Progressive Conservatives who claim he stepped on judicial independence by overriding a recruitment committee struck last year on the appointment of the chief judge of the provincial and family courts.

Tory Leader Tim Houston says correspondence obtained by his party shows Mark Furey reappointed Chief Judge Pamela Williams despite a recommendation from the committee that Judge Alanna Murphy be appointed to the position.

The Tories also tabled a resignation letter in the legislature by committee chair and now retired chief justice Michael MacDonald, who said the recruitment process had “undermined” his role in representing the common interests of judges in the province.

Houston says the terms of reference state that cabinet will act on the advice of the recruitment committee.

But Furey says it was within his purview to request more information from the committee and to make his recommendation to cabinet based on all considerations, including that Williams had been serving in the role, which has a five-year term.

Furey says he had the option to simply reappoint Williams, but he wanted to adhere to a process that has been in use for the past 20 years.

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