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Gander Justice David Peddle longest sitting judge in Newfoundland and Labrador history

On Jan. 31, the Honourable Justice David Peddle retired after spending more than 44 years on the bench – the longest sitting judge ever in Newfoundland and Labrador. He plans to stay in Gander, spend more time with family, and live one day at time.
On Jan. 31, the Honourable Justice David Peddle retired after spending more than 44 years on the bench – the longest sitting judge ever in Newfoundland and Labrador. He plans to stay in Gander, spend more time with family, and live one day at time. - Contributed

Four decades on the bench

GANDER, N.L. —

A Gander judge is enjoying some downtime following a recent retirement after more than four decades on the bench.

The Honourable Justice David Peddle retired New Year’s Eve, marking the close of one of the longest judicial careers in Canada.

“It was actually 44 years, two and a half months, which happens to be the longest sitting judge ever in this province,” Peddle said.

While Peddle was born in Corner Brook, he calls Gander home after spending a total of 32 years there.

In 1974, soon after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Memorial University, Peddle responded to an advertisement placed by the province in The Daily News inviting applications from those interested in becoming a magistrate. This was the beginning of a transition in Newfoundland, away from lay magistrates, toward legally trained and legally educated Judges to serve the provincial court. The successful candidates were obliged to attend a six-month training program, and within the next seven years, obtain a Bachelor of Laws degree. Peddle was one of the successful candidates and he enthusiastically embraced this new challenge.

He initially worked as a magistrate in Gander, and from there he conducted regular circuits to smaller communities including Lewisporte, Twillingate, Summerford, Pound Cove, Wesleyville and Gambo.

After three years fine-tuning his judicial skills at the Gander Provincial Court, he headed off to law school. In 1977, with his wife and their two-week old daughter, Peddle packed his bags and moved to Halifax to attend Dalhousie University law school. While away at law school the Newfoundland and Labrador Government passed legislation to eliminate the title of magistrate, and replace it with the title judge. The job did not change, but as of Dec. 14, 1979, Magistrate Peddle became Judge Peddle.

After completing law school in May 1980, Peddle resumed his judicial duties, this time serving the Provincial Court at Port Aux Basques and surrounding area. In July 1980, a vacancy in Gander allowed him to move back “home” and serve the Gander Provincial Court once more.

In August 1988 he was appointed a deputy territorial court judge for the Northwest Territories. For a number of years thereafter, for two to three week periods, he did circuits in the Western Artic. Peddle refers to it as one of the best experiences of his career.

The next big change in Peddle’s judicial career came 20 years later. The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador was expanding to create a specialized Family Division in Corner Brook. A new judge was needed. The federal minister of Justice offered that new position to Peddle, and bags were packed again, as the family (now just David and his wife Madeline) relocated to Corner Brook.

“I spent five years in Corner Brook,” Peddle said. “They expanded the family division there so I was the first judge assigned to the new family court division for the Supreme Court — that was from 2009-2014.”

It was an intensely busy judicial centre, and especially so for the family division. Peddle had the special skills, from years of experience, to leave both sides satisfied that there had been a fair hearing. That was a good skill to have when serving the family division, where emotions generally run high, and where work volumes challenge one’s patience.

It was here Justice William H. Goodridge, who was the superior court trial judge in Corner Brook at the time, worked closely with Peddle as colleagues, seeing each other every day.

“I think probably his best qualities is he is a people person,” Goodridge said. “He could relate to the litigants in front of them, speak in a language they understood, speak clearly, not too much legalises and give them the strong impression that he had heard what they had to say and considered it.”

Goodridge said Peddle is a down to earth, grounded and humble – all great qualities.

“He knew as a judge he was a form of public servant trying to render justice and he kept his feet firmly on the ground,” Goodridge said. “I hope we continue to have contact with you and you and your wife have good health in your retirement years.”

In all his years, Peddle said his most memorable moments were adoptions.

“I did quite a few over the years,” Peddle said. “The reason for saying that is because everybody went away happy.”

For his swan song, he accepted a transfer back to Gander in the Supreme Court general division, doing mostly family work and some criminal.

Peddle and his wife are excited to begin the next chapter in life, a well-earned retirement. They plan to remain in Gander, spend time with their three grandchildren, who reside nearby, and visit the other two in Leduc, Alberta.

“I’m going to take some time to decompress, I’m going to spend more time with my five grandchildren, and beyond that I have no plans,” Peddle said. “One day at a time.

“I’m very proud of my contribution to the justice system. It’s been a privilege and an honour to serve my province, but right now I’m feeling relieved. Forty-four years two and a half months is a long time to be a judge, so age and decision fatigue were factors in my decision. It was the right time for me to exit.”

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