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Former B.C. Supreme Court chief justice Allan McEachern dies

VANCOUVER - He was a top British Columbia jurist, chancellor of the University of B.C., president and commissioner of the Canadian Football League and an Internet pioneer.

VANCOUVER - He was a top British Columbia jurist, chancellor of the University of B.C., president and commissioner of the Canadian Football League and an Internet pioneer.

Retired court justice Allan McEachern has died at the age of 81. Accolades poured in for the man who was a leader in legal, sports and education circles.

B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal, a former judge, said Friday he considered McEachern his mentor and he was devastated by the news.

"He had a passion for justice," said Oppal. "He did so many things in his illustrious career."

In spite of his credentials and lofty position, Oppal said McEachern was very down to earth and he will miss him.

"When he left the bench he did not want to be called the Honourable Allan McEachern; he was just Allan McEachern."

As chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, McEachern helped bring the system into the modern age by working to streamline court procedures and post court judgments online.

"Allan's distinguished career was marked by his reform of court procedure and by being the first judge to host his own website," Premier Gordon Campbell said in a statement.

"During his 21 years as a judge, he earned a reputation as one of Canada's greatest jurists," Campbell said.

McEachern graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1950 and was later given an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1990 by the university.

He had a storied legal career, practising law with a Vancouver firm until he was appointed a justice of the B.C. Supreme Court.

He became chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1979 and was elevated to the B.C. Court of Appeal as chief justice in 1988.

"Judges and lawyers will remember the clarity and precision of his judgments, his professional courtesy, his humility, his capacity for hard work and, above all else, his sense of humour," said John Hunter, president of the B.C. Law Society.

McEachern was involved in some high profile decisions while on the bench, including striking down former premier Bill Vander Zalm's government regulation that refused to medicare funding to pay for abortions.

While the chief justice of the Appeal Court of B.C. he told accused child pornographer John Robin Sharpe to save his breath when Sharpe asked for more time to prepare an appeal.

"There are 18 cases pending in B.C. courts. That alone is enough reason to expedite this appeal," McEachern stated.

McEachern was a man with numerous hats as the president of the Legal Aid Society, president of the B.C. Lions Football Club, a commissioner in the Canadian Football League and ethics commissioner for Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee.

He was elected a university chancellor by his fellow alumni in 2002 and served as a member of the its board of governors.

"UBC's board of governors has been fortunate beyond measure to have as chancellor one of Canada's finest legal minds," board chairman Brad Bennett said in a statement.

"Our hearts go out to Allan's wife, Madam Justice Mary Newbury and family," said the statement from UBC.

"To them also goes our profound gratitude for the time they allowed us to spend in his august, witty and humane company.

 
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