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The Telegraph Journal, May 30, 2012

Esteemed judge replaces robe with fishing rod


In his own words, he has done nearly everything you can with the law – studied, practised, taught, legislated, administered and adjudicated it.

And to his peers he did it as one of the province’s sharpest legal minds, retiring as a highly regarded judge.

Justice Paul Creaghan unveils his much anticipated pathology report into exactly what needs to change to eliminate any further threat of potential cancer misdiagnosis in the province on December 10, 2008 in Miramichi

Justice Paul Creaghan has stepped down from the Court of Queen’s Bench after a 27-year career.

His closest colleagues will hold a private gathering in his honour on Thursday evening in Moncton to pay tribute to his dedication to both public service and public office.

“He has been a real close friend of mine since about 1968,” said Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice David Smith. “I’m going to miss him terribly.

“He has been a counsel to many judges and to me personally.”

The two met while articling in Moncton at one of the first bilingual law firms in New Brunswick.

Creaghan, an avid fly fisherman since the age of 14, soon had Smith out on the province’s pristine waters casting for salmon.

“He netted my first fish in 1972,” Smith said. “I was using his rod, his fly.

“There was a bunch of guys who didn’t know what they were doing and he jumped in the water, took the net and netted the fish.”

A Harvard law graduate and former Moncton city councillor, Creaghan was elected to the provincial legislature in 1970 and appointed minister of health the same year.

He also held several other cabinet positions over the following eight years, including government house leader.

Creaghan was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench for the Judicial District of Miramichi in 1985, serving two years before being transferred to Moncton.

He has been a supernumerary judge since 2002.

Creaghan retires at age 75, mandatory retirement age for Court of Queen’s Bench judges.

His first case as a Court of Queen’s Bench judge was a summary conviction appeal in Miramichi in November 1985.

“That case is interesting because it established his rule, a rule on running judgments he never deviated from,” Smith said. “No matter how complicated the issues, the facts, and the law, decisions were written and filed within 10 days of the hearing.

“It often meant working nights and through the weekends. It didn’t make any difference. That was a cardinal rule with him that he never deviated from, which is almost unheard of.”

Creaghan has overseen several high-profile trials over the course of his career, including a high-stakes legal war between the provincially owned forest spraying company, Forest Protection Ltd., and two chemical companies, which fixed the price of insecticides.

The case involved 73 motions heard over more than two years.

At the conclusion of the motion hearings, and before the start of the trial, the lawyers from both sides suggested Creaghan oversee a settlement conference.

Creaghan obliged and made his recommendations for a settlement.

“They were followed to the letter, which goes to the high esteem the senior counsel holds him in,” Smith said.

Creaghan has also presided over several murder trials, ruling on what is considered to be one of Moncton’s most heinous crimes.

In 1988, Creaghan sentenced Patrice Mailloux to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years, one of the highest second-degree murder sentences ever handed down in the province.

Mailloux was convicted for the execution-style shooting death of a teenaged girl who was working at a Moncton corner store. Intoxicated, Mailloux entered the store and shot 16-year-old Laura Ann Davis in the head during a robbery.

Creaghan also had the Monster of the Miramichi, Allan Legere, in court after he escaped from prison custody.

In 2008, Creaghan headed a commission of inquiry launched after discrepancies were found in the work of a Miramichi pathologist.

“There’s no doubt that Judge Creaghan is highly respected by members of the practising bar,” said McInnes Cooper lawyer Marc-Antoine Chiasson, who was on the commission’s council and worked alongside Creaghan for the inquiry’s eight months.

“Anyone who has appeared in front of him will tell you that the same themes keep coming back – he is always prepared, he is able to cut down to the essence of a matter very quickly and he is intellectually very strong, a sharp legal mind.”

The inquiry was broken into three phases, lasting 42 days and hearing from 56 witnesses.

The Creaghan report made 52 recommendations to guard against occurrences, such as those in the Miramichi pathology lab, being repeated.

“It was always a pleasure to appear before him because he was always meticulously prepared,” said Michael Bray, registrar of the Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench. “Appearing before him you had a pretty good idea that he probably knew your case as well as you did.”

Bray, a member of the province’s court administration since 1989, said Creaghan has always been a hard-working judge eager to ensure the courts ran efficiently and effectively.

“I had a good run and I enjoyed every bit of it,” Creaghan said by phone from his cottage in Barachois, east of Shediac. “I have done most of what you can do in the law – I studied it, practised it, taught it, legislated it, administered it and adjudicated it.

“The thing about judging is that you have to have the courage and integrity to do what you think is right, and without fear or favour, you call them the way you see them.”

Creaghan recalled with fondness working with the Edward Byrne commission on equal opportunity in Bathurst after returning to New Brunswick after law school, as well as a case he took to the Supreme Court of Canada and won.

He said he has plans this summer to relax, do a little fishing and spend time with his two children and several grandchildren.

Creaghan said he is proud of his dedication to public service.

“The judiciary as a form of public service is probably next to elected office,” he said. “I don’t think you can do anything greater than to be elected to public service.”

“I have had a good time with the law. It’s been good to me and I hope I have given something back in return.”

Elinor Beck Dysart (1937–2017)