The Alberta justice minister has appointed a new chief justice for the Alberta Court of Justice, formerly known as the Provincial Court of Alberta, which oversees cases in the areas of criminal, family, youth, civil, and traffic law.
James A. (Jim) Hunter has been appointed chief justice for a seven-year term effective Sept. 1, 2023, the province said in a news release on Aug. 28. Justice Hunter will be taking over from Chief Justice Derek G. Redman.
In 2020, Justice Hunter distinctly expressed his endorsement of drug treatment courts by attending an event at Red Deer City Hall when the provincial government announced funding for a drug court in the city. Drug treatment courts provide offenders with an addiction the option to participate in a drug treatment program instead of going to jail. The justice said at the time that he “firmly” believed drug treatment courts saved lives.
The new chief justice most recently found Ty Northcott and his rodeo company, Northcott Rodeo Inc., guilty of violating COVID-19 public health orders in place in May 2021. However, a different court decision in a separate case ruled that all COVID orders made by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, including those that Mr. Northcott was accused of violating, were null and void.
“Congratulations to Chief Justice Hunter on his appointment. His experience has served Albertans well. I am confident that Chief Justice Hunter will be a strong leader for the courts,” said Alberta Minister of Justice Mickey Amery.
Justice Hunter graduated in 1988 from the University of Alberta law school and became a partner with Grant Hunter, a Stettler law firm that provided litigation, family, estate, and real estate law services. He was the former mayor of Stettler and served on town council for nine years. He was appointed by former Alberta justice minister Alison Redford in 2009 to the central region of what was then Alberta Provincial Court.
In April 2023, the Provincial Court of Alberta was renamed the Alberta Court of Justice.
In 2014, Justice Hunter was named assistant chief justice before he was assigned to oversee the Justice of the Peace Program in 2021. Some of Justice Hunter’s responsibilities in this role, according to the Alberta government, included working to help secure judicial appointments, addressing concerns raised by justices, and improving the effectiveness of the courts.
Justice Hunter’s role will be to manage the court in the interest of the public while ensuring the efficient administration of justice, said the province.
In Alberta, judges are recommended for appointment by the minister of justice from a list of qualified candidates provided by the chief justice selection panel.
Justice Redman, who was appointed chief justice in August 2020, said in June he would be stepping down on Aug. 31 to spend more time with his family and return to being a sitting judge in southern Alberta.