Court welcomes new Associate Chief Judges

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As Associate Chief Judges Gurmail Gill and Nancy Phillips returned to full-time sitting duties earlier this year, they were replaced by two judges who bring strong administrative, consensus- building and communications skills to the Court’s administrative team. Learn more about Associate Chief Judges Susan Wishart and Melissa Gillespie, including a little known fact.

Associate Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie

Associate Chief Judge Gillespie was born and grew up in Calgary, Alberta. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in commerce at Queen’s University in Kingston in 1985, she received her law degree from the University of Toronto in 1989 and was called to the British Columbia Bar (licensed to practise law in BC) in 1991. Soon after that, she began her legal career as Crown Counsel doing courtroom work in New Westminster, Surrey and Burnaby. In 2000 she began to take on administrative responsibilities, serving as Administrative Crown Counsel in Surrey until 2003, then Deputy Regional Crown Counsel, and in 2005 Regional Crown Counsel for the Fraser Region.

Appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 2009, Associate Chief Judge Gillespie was sworn in as a Provincial Court judge in February, 2012. Since then, she has presided in the Fraser Region. In addition to sitting assignments, Associate Chief Judge Gillespie has been an active volunteer in delivering education programs to judges and judicial justices, as well as to the larger legal community. In 2015 and 2016 she participated in a Justice Education Society project to strengthen the criminal justice system in Guyana. She was also a member of the executive of the BC Provincial Court Judges Association for several years.

Judge Gillespie was designated an Associate Chief Judge by the Lieutenant Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Chief Judge under section 10(1) of the Provincial Court Act on April 15, 2016 for a two year term. The responsibilities delegated to her by the Chief Judge include various aspects of judicial administration, working with the Court’s judicial justices, and overseeing the Court’s technology initiatives.

Associate Chief Judge Susan Wishart

Associate Chief Judge Wishart grew up in the small town of Belleville Ontario. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo in 1988 and a Masters of Science degree in physiology from Queen’s University in 1990, followed by a law degree from the University of Victoria in 1994. She was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1995 and began her legal career with a Victoria law firm. From 1996 to 1999 she worked as a supervising lawyer and clinical instructor with law students from the University of Victoria at The Law Centre, a community legal clinic. In 1999 she returned to private practice mainly in the area of criminal law and conducted cases at all levels of court. She maintained ties with the law school, regularly speaking to students on issues related to criminal law and taught advocacy from 2007 to 2010

During her time as a lawyer Associate Chief Judge Wishart was very active in the Canadian Bar Association. She chaired the Victoria criminal law sub-section, was an elected member of Provincial Council, and an elected member of the Executive of the CBA - BC Branch. She was appointed a Provincial Court Judge in 2009.

Since her appointment, she has been assigned to the Vancouver Island Region where her duties have included sitting in the Victoria Integrated Court and the Cowichan Valley Domestic Violence Court. In addition to her sitting duties, Associate Chief Judge Wishart has given freely of her time to Court affairs including serving on the executive of the BC Provincial Court Judges’ Association. In 2014 -2015 she served as the Association’s President and as its representative on Judicial Council. A little known fact - Associate Chief Judge Wishart knows her way around a tool box and since 2009 has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity helping to build houses in New Orleans, Washington D.C., Taos New Mexico and Gliwice, Poland.

Judge Wishart was designated an Associate Chief Judge for a two year term on May 15, 2016. Her responsibilities include various projects including the Court’s initiatives to improve access to justice for self represented litigants, monitoring and evaluation of specialized courts and the Court’s trial scheduling reforms.