Swearing in of new judge creates court milestone

Josh Pennell
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The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador now has the highest proportion of female judges — 45 per cent — of any court in Canada.

Chief Judge Mark Pike swears in Phyllis Harris as the province’s newest judge. Harris will serve in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.


The milestone was reached Tuesday at the provincial courts in St. John’s when Phyllis Harris was sworn is as the province’s newest judge by Chief Judge Mark Pike.

Harris was senior Crown attorney in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for four years. She will serve in Happy Valley-Goose Bay as a judge and will replace the recently retired Judge William English.

“While I don’t really think of myself as being adventurous, other people will differ and say the fact that I’m willing to try bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, ice fishing in minus 40 and riding a horse — that all those things perhaps indicate the opposite,” Harris told a courtroom full of legal peers, as well as family and friends.

Harris has a legal career spanning two decades. She was called to the bar in 1993. In 2005, she was appointed senior Crown in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Minister of Justice Terry French was on hand and said a few words.

“The justice system in Labrador is certainly unique and does have challenges that we do not see on the island. Geography, demographics and the culture all play a role in making provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay an interesting place in which to administer the law,” French said. “Her experience as a senior Crown attorney in Labrador will serve her well in this integral role as a member of the judiciary.”

Harris has been serving as a bencher with the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador as a representative of Labrador. While the importance of her new role was stressed and her achievements commended by Kenneth Baggs, president of the Law Society, there was room in the court for some light razzing.

“Judge Harris’s shoes will be tough to fill (as a Crown attorney), but she might be in a position to lend a few pairs to anyone in need, as I understand she is something if a footwear connoisseur,” Baggs said.

Besides her legal achievements, Harris is an active horseback rider and has also worked with UNICEF at the local, regional and national levels for a decade.



Organizations: UNICEF

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • nepotism rules in newfoundland
    July 16, 2014 - 18:16

    The former LT-Gov's daughter in law, and a few friends of the daughter in law, are all warming their bottoms on the supreme court bench. So is the son of a now dead Chief Justice, and the daughter of a retired supreme court justice. Nepotism is the rule, rather than the exception. And, as far as merit is concerned, forget it. It is not a factor in the judicial selection process. As usual, it is not what you know, but who you know.

  • Fred Sullivan
    July 16, 2014 - 16:08

    Can you believe Terry French is actually commenting like he knows something about Justice!! What a joke !! This guy barely graduated from highschool and never even worked in the Dept of Justice let alone holds any formal training within the justice. No law degree, no experience working in any avenue of justice and does not even hold a degree of any sort. I feel so gifted hearing his words of wisdom about what a great judge Ms Harris will be, like he hs the slighest clue about what he is talking about!

  • Crown buster II
    July 16, 2014 - 11:01

    @Politics and The Bench.... You are partially correct, all judicial appointments in NL are rooted in political affiliations, all of them at all levels. However, not all are without merit. The problem lies in the lack of any merit assessment. When a premier appoints a former partner to the bench in lieu of partnership buyout, and that lawyer has never practised criminal law, then there is a problem. When a Lt. Gov. has an old family friend appointed to SC Trial Division and that lawyer has never conducted a trial before, then there is a problem. It must be noted, that until this most recent appointment, Marshall has seen GOOD criminal lawyers appointed to the bench. We will never eliminate the patronage aspect, but it would be nice to see a merit assessment introduced.

  • Politics and The Bench
    July 16, 2014 - 09:00

    People are fed up with oyr lax Justice system where repeat crooks serve one third of their sentence and we wonder why? The proof lies in the political appointments to the bench. The Courts, both NL Supreme and Provincial courts are filled with former politicians and bureaucrats that government has tossed out or doesn't know what to do with anymore. We are not getting the sharpest legal minds or the most experienced; we are getting the leftovers.

  • Crown buster
    July 15, 2014 - 22:16

    Too funny, about 16 months ago the DPP fired Phyllis Harris as part of the budget cuts to justice. She got her job back after the "review" that was ordered. She may have been a senior crown, but since 2008, they have been looking for places to hide her, I guess the bench in Labrador is as good a place as any