Ending a weekend of speculation, British Columbia Supreme Court Chief Justice Bryan Williams is expected to announce his resignation from the bench today.
While the reasons for his resignation are unclear, B.C. legal sources say the 67-year-old chief justice is stepping down as senior benchers prepare to release the results of an investigation into his activities.
Chief Justice Williams, who is a friend of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and was appointed chief justice in 1996, could not be reached yesterday for comment.
A note attached to the door of his Vancouver home said he and his wife, Audrey, would be away until Feb. 21.
While B.C. Attorney-General Ujjal Dosanjh declined to confirm or deny that Chief Justice Williams is stepping down, he said the judge's resignation would be seen as a loss to the legal community.
That's because Chief Justice Williams is regarded as a champion of the underdog. He recently ruled that a grassroots political movement known as Help B.C. could sue three provincial New Democratic Party MLAs for allegedly lying to the public in the 1996 election.
The complex case was based on the allegation that the NDP knew that the province's finances had fallen into the red while voters were being told that the budget was balanced.
"I have had the highest regard for Chief Justice Williams," Mr. Dosanjh said.
"He tried to bring about innovations, such as video conferencing, mediation, and alternate dispute resolutions in the court," he said.
In 1998, Chief Justice Williams took part in the first satellite link to a network of video-conferencing courtrooms in British Columbia that allows judges in Vancouver to hear testimony from witnesses located in Boston and Hong Kong.
"He has actually been a pioneer in a sense so it would be a loss to see him go," Mr. Dosanjh said.
A long-time Liberal Party supporter, Chief Justice Williams practised law in Vancouver for 36 years before becoming a Court of Appeal judge in 1995. A year later, when he was appointed B.C.'s chief justice, he pledged to overhaul the trial system to get rid of what he called the two main evils: cost and delay.
Chief Justice Williams made headlines when he mediated a settlement in 1998 over allegations of abuse made by Indians against the Catholic Church and the federal government.
He also argued major cases involving lawyers' advertising, doctors' billing numbers, Indian land claims.