Former P.A. prosecutor named Chief Judge of Provincial Court

Matt Gardner
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A former Crown prosecutor in the Prince Albert area has been appointed Chief Judge of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan.

Prince Albert Daily Herald

The Ministry of Justice officially announced the appointment of Judge James Plemel -- known to his friends as Jim -- on Wednesday, after Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant called Plemel to deliver the news.

“I felt very privileged and honoured to be asked,” Plemel said.

Currently the resident provincial court judge in Wynyard, Plemel will take on his new position on Jan. 1, 2015 at the conclusion of present chief judge Carol Snell’s term.

In an official release, Wyant described Plemel as an “exceptional successor” to Snell.

“He has significant experience and a dedication to ensuring Saskatchewan residents have access to justice services,” Wyant said of Plemel. “He has already been instrumental as a Provincial Court Judge in Wynyard and I welcome him to his new role.”

As the Chief Judge for the Provincial Court, Plemel will serve as the administrative judge for the province for a seven-year term.

In anticipation of his new duties, he will be moving out of the Wynyard circuit and back to Saskatoon on Nov. 1 to get a feel for his new responsibilities before the new year.

“It’ll take me some time between now and then to learn my role  … The position is defined in the Provincial Court Act of Saskatchewan and of course there’s the practical workings of the court and I’ll have to become familiar with them,” he said.

In learning the ropes, Plemel will have a significant source of help in the form of Chief Judge Snell.

“She’s certainly offered her support and has been very supportive up to this point in time, so I’ll be spending quite a bit of time with her,” he noted.

“I expect also (to be) meeting the people she works with on a regular basis, spending a bit more time with the other judges of the Provincial Court of Saskatchewan and talking to them, and of course familiarizing myself with the role.”

Born in the village of St. Gregor near Humboldt, Plemel obtained his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1975 before being admitted to the Law Society of Saskatchewan the following year.

Decades of work in the legal profession have taken Plemel throughout the province -- starting with a stint at the Legal Aid office in La Ronge that lasted until 1977, when he left to travel through Latin America.

Prior to his departure, the director of public prosecutions had called Plemel to ask whether he might be interested in joining public prosecution somewhere in Saskatchewan.

I felt very privileged and honoured to be asked. Judge James Plemel

After his 15-month journey through Latin America, Plemel called the director back and was offered a job as a prosecutor in Prince Albert.

Moving to P.A. in 1979, Plemel would work in the city for the next decade, during which he got married and started a family.

“It was a very interesting job and I’m quite glad I took the position,” Plemel said.

“There were usually five prosecutors in the office and it was a very well-run office. Eventually we moved over to the McIntosh Mall, where I had a nice office overlooking the Diefenbaker Bridge on the North Saskatchewan River. So it was a lovely physical setting.

“The work as prosecutor then, and I’m sure now, was quite important -- everything from minor criminal and provincial offences to the most serious charges.”

During his tenure in P.A., Plemel’s work took him to both Prince Albert Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

In 1989, Plemel moved to Saskatoon and continued his work in public prosecutions.

After several years of work as a regional crown prosecutor, he received his appointment as a provincial court judge in Wynyard in 2009.

Asked why he believed he had received the appointment as Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, Plemel suggested his high level of experience across Saskatchewan -- both in criminal work and as a Crown prosecutor -- as well as a familiarity with administrative duties.

“I had some administrative experience in the La Ronge office … We travelled around the whole northern part of the province over to the Alberta border and up to the (Northwest) Territories and over to the Manitoba border, so pretty good experience in a big part of the province.”

Another of Plemel’s strengths is his bilingualism, having spoken French for the last three decades and presided and prosecuted over several cases in French.

As he prepares for his new job, Plemel expressed hope that his work would take him back to P.A. at some point.

“I hope when I am the chief judge of the province that I will be able to get back to Prince Albert and sit there as a judge and attend some of the law functions and other related functions there as a chief judge of our court,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”

Organizations: Ministry of Justice, University of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Wynyard, Saskatoon La Ronge Latin America North Saskatchewan River Alberta Manitoba

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