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Mr. Justice James Williams was only three years on the British Columbia Supreme Court when he was assigned one of the most challenging cases on the court docket, the Robert Pickton murder trial.

The judge's reputation had preceded him. He was well known in legal circles for his analytical mind, his sense of fairness and his wry sense of humour.

"I think we're lucky to have him running it," George Macintosh, a lawyer who knows Judge Williams well and is not involved in the trial, said in a recent interview.

Judge Williams assesses matters in a detached manner and sees both sides of an issue, Mr. Macintosh said. "He is even-handed to an unusual degree."

Mr. Macintosh anticipated the complex and lengthy jury trial will run smoothly under Judge Williams's watchful eye.

"He is someone who will run a good courtroom," Mr. Macintosh said. "In a case of that length, with the amount of emotion that is going to be in the room a lot of the time, you need someone to let everyone know he is in control and to do it in low-key way. He's made for that."

Judge Williams was in his 30s, with a young family and working as a Mountie, when he decided to go to law school.

He was called to the bar in 1984, articled with Vancouver trial lawyer Len Doust, and in 1990 opened an office with Vancouver lawyer Bill Smart. He was appointed to the bench in 2002.

As a lawyer, he was involved in several notable criminal trials. He was the prosecutor in the case against six Vancouver Island girls who beat up high-school student Reena Virk before she was killed.

As a defence lawyer, he represented hockey star Marty McSorley against a charge of assault with a weapon after he hit former Canucks player Donald Brashear on the ice with his hockey stick.

Mr. Macintosh came to know Judge Williams when they were involved in the inquiry into the RCMP handling of protesters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum in Vancouver in 1997. Judge Williams, as a lawyer, represented RCMP Staff Sergeant Hugh Stewart, dubbed "Sgt. Pepper" for pepper-spraying student protesters.

"That was a hard case," Mr. Macintosh said. "A lot of people did not like what [Staff Sgt. Stewart]was doing. But Jim put it in context, which is what good lawyers do, and [Staff Sgt. Stewart]was completely understood. Jim basically vindicated him."

Judge Williams adjudicated at fewer than 30 court cases before he was assigned the Pickton trial, according to a search of the B.C. Supreme Court website.