Mother and daughter judges on BC Provincial Court!

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Judging in Canada is not often a family affair, but occasionally two members of the same family have been appointed and served on courts in BC at the same time. There have been brothers and sisters-in-law on various BC courts simultaneously, and sisters on our Provincial Court together, but now the BC Provincial Court has judges who are mother and daughter – likely a first in Canada!

Who are they and what is their story? How do they manage their family and work relationships successfully?

Judith Doulis was appointed a Provincial Court judge in December 2015. Cassandra Malfair followed her mother to the Provincial Court bench in January 2017.

Born in Smithers and raised on nearby Lake Kathlyn in northern BC, Judge Doulis was the youngest of seven children. She worked in law-related jobs while raising her own children in Smithers and Telkwa, eventually moving to Vancouver to work and attend university. While studying her passion - medieval history - in graduate school at UBC she decided that law offered more career opportunities, and entered law school at the University of British Columbia in 1994.

Between Smithers and Hazelton

Coincidentally, or maybe not, Judge Malfair began law school two years later. She had had a life-long interest in law and considered law school the obvious next step after obtaining her BA in political science from York University in Toronto. But law school study groups weren’t the first time these judges had worked together. Judge Malfair’s first job at age 13 was photocopying in the Smithers law firm where her mother worked as a paralegal. When Judge Doulis moved to a Vancouver law firm as a paralegal, Judge Malfair worked in the mailroom after school. Then, during university, she worked part time at the Native Community Law Office Association where her mother was Coordinator.

The judges’ career paths continued to dovetail after they graduated from law school. From 2008 to 2014 Judge Malfair worked as Crown Counsel in Prince George. Her mother worked as a prosecutor of environmental offences in the same office. In 2014 Judge Doulis moved to Smithers as Administrative Crown Counsel but returned to Prince George in 2015 as Deputy Regional Crown, her daughter’s boss. When Judge Doulis was appointed to the bench in December 2015, Judge Malfair competed for and won her mother’s former position. She then served as Deputy Regional Crown Counsel in Prince George until her own appointment to the Court in January, 2016.

Smithers Courthouse

In addition to the work they’ve done together or in succession, Judge Doulis practised family, criminal and human rights law and civil litigation in private practise and for the Community Legal Assistance Society in Vancouver. Before joining the BC Criminal Justice Branch, Judge Malfair worked on large scale commercial litigation for law firms in Vancouver and Calgary.

When asked how they manage to get along so well, Judge Malfair said, “There really haven’t been challenges when we work together.” Judge Doulis added, “I was quite young when my daughter was born and I didn’t have set ideas about parenting. We developed similar interests, enjoyed the same activities, and became friends. We’ve often lived together when we’re in the same city. We even discovered we had the same reaction when we received the telephone call announcing our appointments to the Court – we both checked our cell phone logs to see if the call had really happened!”

Their shared interests include cooking, music and various sports. Judge Malfair is an avid and ambitious gardener, as well as an inventive carpenter. Judge Doulis enjoys art.

Both women preside as judges in BC’s Northern Region. Judge Doulis is now the resident judge in Smithers while Judge Malfair’s chambers are in Prince George. Judge Malfair says, “We are both true northerners. We were born here, have chosen to live here, love our communities, and share an understanding of the North and the people here. We are both happy to serve the communities we care about and that made us who we are.”