Recent History – 2000
June 16, 2000, By Cees Mond, Daily News Staff
With the semi-retirement of Judge David Levis, a new face has entered the Dawson Creek court house.
Provincial Court Judge Randy Walker has been appointed as the new judge, and has been working in Dawson Creek for the past six weeks.
Walker said he realizes he’s got pretty big shoes to fill.
“The first thing is to do my best to ensure that this community receives the same respectful and considerate judging it has been used to from Judge Levis, who sat in this community and others in the north for over 20 years,” he said.
Walker is no stranger to Dawson Creek. He has practiced as a lawyer in Prince George for 20 years, both as criminal defence lawyer and crown counsel, and in that capacity has visited Dawson Creek on occasion.
“I practiced mostly criminal law in Prince George and all over northern B.C.”
Walker said having worked both as defence counsel and crown counsel is a big help for his work as a judge, as he understands very well where both parties are coming from.
“It certainly helps to have experience on both sides,” he said.
Walker said he didn’t come to Dawson Creek with a mission, other than to discharge his duties as a provincial court judge. But he does anticipate to serve the community for many years, perhaps until his retirement. He’s 53 years old, is married, and has four children and four grandchildren.
Judge Walker said one thing he, and other judges, find very important is respect for the law and for the court. When the people appearing in his court room are given a court order, he expects that order to be followed to the letter.
“Where that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, the individuals who are convicted of such breaches, or plead guilty, should expect to offer an explanation as to why the court order wasn’t followed,” he said.
Walker has noticed in the past six weeks that, somehow, some people have been taking their court orders with a grain of salt.
“What I’ve noticed, and I guess this is changing, is certain young people didn’t seem to be paying attention to the terms of their probation orders,” he said.
And, as judges have, within certain general parameters, the authority to deal with court situations as they think is appropriate, his style may be somewhat different from that of other judges Dawson Creek has been used to.
“But,” he said, “I don’t know whether I’m tough or not.”
The Dawson Creek court has both B.C. Provincial Court and B.C. Supreme Court.
It deals with matters involving the criminal law, the family law and small claims.
Under family law, Provincial Court deals with issues of custody, access to children and maintenance, whereas Supreme Court deals with divorce and property division.
Small claims court falls under Provincial Court. Small Claims Court deals with civil disputes between parties, up to a maximum of $10,000.
“In family and small claims, there’s an increasing emphasis on attempts to resolve problems without the necessity for long, drawn-out formal hearings. That’s accomplished by setting what are called case conferences in family and settlement conferences in small claims, where the judge comes down from the bench, in essence, joins the parties in dispute, and attempts to work out things that aren’t an issue, things that might be resolvable, and that in turn helps us to properly use and allocate scarce court resources.”
“For family and civil, there’s a greater emphasis on mediation rather than adjudication.”
That’s different from deal making, or plea bargaining, which is a method to resolve criminal issues without going to a trial.
One of the methods to deal with people without a criminal record, but charged with a criminal offence, is to refer them to the community justice program, which has young offenders and their victims meet to discuss the offender’s crimes.
Walker said he’s in full support of that program, because what it does is dealing with first offenders outside of the court system, and most of these offenders don’t become repeat offenders.
“The objects of the program are wonderful,” Walker said. “I would like to see it utilized as often as possible.”
While it may seem busy at court sometimes, Walker said only five per cent of the general population will get in trouble with the law, and only one per cent of the general population are chronic offenders.
Walker said he’s pleased to be in Dawson Creek.
“The initial contact with the local people has been very friendly and helpfull,” he said. “I’d like to service the community for years to come.”