A committed judicial athlete and volunteer

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Judges find different ways to deal with the stress of their work and the fact that they usually see people in crisis rather than during happy times. Some volunteer, some participate in athletic activities, and some do both.

This week's eNews describes the varied activities of a judge who does both with ferocious energy and commitment.

Judge James Sutherland’s professional and personal interests shape his life as a volunteer. A respected trial lawyer before his appointment to the Provincial Court, Judge Sutherland has taught Trial Advocacy at UBC’s Allard Law School each fall for the last 13 years. As an Adjunct Professor of Law and the course coordinator he plans the curriculum and delivers weekly lectures. The students then apply what they’ve learned in practical exercises and receive feedback from practising lawyers. Course evaluations give him valuable feedback too, and he was particularly gratified by a student who wrote, “Thank you for all your valuable lessons and pointers and for being nice. I’m not as scared to appear before judges now, knowing that they’re actual humans and not scary!”

Like many of his colleagues, Judge Sutherland also participates as faculty in professional education programs for lawyers and others who work in the justice system, and speaks to school and community groups. Judges often enjoy opportunities to share their knowledge, listen to people outside the Court, and make the experience of going to court less intimidating by showing that judges are indeed human.

Judge Sutherland is a dedicated supporter of the Special Olympics. He sits on the Leadership Council of Special Olympics British Columbia (SOBC), the group that serves as a link between community and regional programs and the SOBC Board of Directors. The Leadership Council plays an important role in helping chart the course of SOBC’s sport program development, strategic plans and policies.

He has also had a stellar career coaching youth sports. He has been awarded two coaching awards in hockey, one in baseball, and the 2012 Canadian Bar Association Community Service Award for Vancouver County. For the 2016-2017 season, he is coaching a select soccer team. With two practices and one game each week it represents a significant time commitment.

When asked why he volunteers, Judge Sutherland responds:

“I can't say it's to give back to the community - an often-stated rationale. Rather, it is simply based on a belief that communities are built and made better through the efforts of its members. So many initiatives are created by volunteers wanting to enhance the quality of life in a community, and their efforts really do enhance the quality of life. Regardless of the size of the commitment, every bit helps.

This view was instilled in me through the example of my parents, who were always involved in their community. Also, anyone involved typically discovers a happy (though not so well-kept) secret - you get more out of your volunteerism than you put in. The rewards are great and gratifying, and they outweigh any strain associated with one’s involvement. I don’t volunteer for things for recognition or as a means to an end. Rather, I get involved when there is an opportunity in an endeavour, where there is a need, and where I can possibly help to satisfy that need.”

Judge Sutherland doesn’t limit his love of sports to coaching. He grew up in Ottawa and played hockey in minor leagues, at school, in parks, and on the longest rink in the world, the Rideau Canal. He has played hockey all his life except when sidelined by injuries. On moving to Vancouver he joined a men’s hockey team. After playing with the same team for 25 years, and travelling with team-mates to play all over the world, those team-mates have become his closest friends. Last fall his team travelled to Los Angeles and played at the Anaheim Ducks' practice facility.

He describes the pleasure he gets from hockey: “We've played throughout Canada and the United States, in cities including Chicago, San Diego, Nashville, Las Vegas, Montreal, and Calgary. We even played overseas in Russia. You can imagine the fun of travelling to these places with friends, playing a game you love. I have also played with and against some amazing people along the way including former NHL and Russian National Team members. The experience has been incredibly fun. I tell young players that it doesn't matter how far they get in hockey. If they get out of it what I have, they will have won the lottery.”

He adds that hockey has a health benefit – but not what you might expect. “It is a great workout. But the real health benefit to me is the motivation it gives me to stay fit. I can't bear to be lagging behind my teammates so that I am a detriment to the team's success. The only way I can effectively contribute is by working hard. I need to be in shape to do that. It motivates me to workout outside the rink. How I feel on the ice is really the barometer of my fitness level.”

One of the ways Judge Sutherland keeps fit is by trail running. He progressed from high school track and field, through running BC’s mountain trails, to the Seek the Peak race - a 16 km race from West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park to the peak of Grouse Mountain – finishing in 1:56:48, at 90th place out of 539 solo competitors and 5th out of 32 solo competitors in his age category the last time he ran it.

He has also run races in the Five Peaks and Coast Mountain Trail Running series, on the course of the 2015 World Mountain Running Championships in Wales, and “the world’s steepest 400 metre race” up a 90 metre ski jump at Whistler. For something a little different, a few years ago he competed in an enduro mountain bike race up and down Silverstar Mountain in the Okanagan three times.

With Judge Sutherland’s obvious physical and mental stamina he is well equipped for the long, intense days in the courtroom that Provincial Court judging sometimes requires.