In the search for a replacement judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, one name keeps coming up.

An informal survey of legal experts in Nova Scotia suggests Justice Thomas Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is viewed as one of the most likely candidates to succeed New Brunswicker Justice Michael Bastarache on the Supreme Court bench.

Bastarache, 59, announced earlier this month he will be stepping down from the Supreme Court, well before the mandatory retirement age of 75. The federal government is expected to pick his successor from the Atlantic provinces region, which traditionally sends one member to the Supreme Court bench.


Sources in the legal community also point to bilingualism as an unofficial qualification in order to fill the void of bilingual expertise left by Bastarache.

“It’s ripe for speculation,” said Judge Robert Hyslop of the Newfoundland Provincial Court.

Justice Thomas A. Cromwell of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is considered a frontrunner among his peers. He is the former executive legal officer at the Supreme Court of Canada and a former Dalhousie Law School professor. He is also bilingual and credited as “a tremendous writer.”

Another potential candidate is Justice Leo Barry of the Newfoundland Supreme Court, who is also bilingual and a former law professor. He is one of the few Newfoundland judges selected by a Conservative government.

“Newfoundland has never had one Supreme Court judge,” said Judge Hyslop. “Mind you, we’ve only been in the game since 1949.”

Judges and legal experts are cautious about going public with their opinions because of the highly politicized nature of bench appointments.

Stephen Harper’s government is under pressure to make its decision before the fall court session begins in October. The new appointment process, whereby candidates face public questioning in front of a parliamentary committee, has been criticized for replicating the transparent U.S. model.

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