After 24 years as a lawyer and just shy of 15 years as a judge, retired Court of King’s Bench of Alberta Justice Kristine Eidsvik isn’t quite ready for a rocking chair yet.
The former Calgary jurist is regularly cycling and skiing (depending on the season), painting, cooking and “generally enjoying life” with the extra time she has had since retiring from the Bench, and she has also started a challenging mediation and arbitration practice.
“I am back as a member of the Law Society and have joined my former colleague (retired Court of King’s Bench Chief Justice) Neil Wittmann and others as an independent member with Western Arbitration Chambers,” says Eidsvik, adding her trade name is KME Dispute Resolution.
“It’s been very interesting being in charge of my own time again,” she says with a smile.
Retired Justice Eidsvik was appointed to the Court of Queen’s (now King’s) Bench in Calgary on April 26, 2007, and she retired on February 7, 2022, after having served nearly 15 years.
“It was a true honour and very humbling to have been appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta,” says Eidsvik. “I was fortunate to have worked with three excellent Chief Justices and many tremendous colleagues. It was an experience of a lifetime.”
At the time of Justice Eidsvik’s retirement, King’s Bench Chief Justice Mary Moreau noted the fluently bilingual judge took on some tough French cases, including a recent multi-accused human trafficking trial, and produced lengthy and complex rulings entirely in French.
Chief Justice Moreau also commended her for chairing the Court’s IT Steering Committee for several years, managing complex insolvency matters as a valued member of the ABKB Commercial Roster, co-shepherding, with Justice Peter Michalyshyn, the expansion of the orientation program for new judges and representing Alberta as a Director of the Canadian Superior Courts Judges Association.
As well, the Chief Justice praised retired Justice Eidsvik’s 2017-18 study leave report Tomorrow's Court of Queen's Bench: How Technology Can Transform It for providing a first-hand overview of the technological progress of other Canadian courts and successful transformations to digital courts internationally and showing how ABKB’s paper process could be successfully digitalized.
“We will miss you and wish you much happiness in the next chapter of your life,” said Moreau.
During her time on the Bench, retired Justice Eidsvik says she had many interesting court hearings, including R c Caron, a French language case she presided over early in her judicial career that went right up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“It turned out to be the only case during my career on the Bench that got leave to appeal to the SCC,” says Eidsvik. “Luckily, my decision was upheld.”
Other interesting legal matters included the first French jury trial to be held in Alberta in 30 years, a jury trial conducted in the Lethbridge theatre during COVID, a fraud case against a Canmore accountant and a series of seismic data cases which, in part, involved a copyright decision that has been quoted worldwide.
“But perhaps my most interesting case was J.H. v Alberta Health Services where certain provisions of Alberta’s Mental Health Act were struck down as unconstitutional,” says Eidsvik. “Although the government appealed the decision (which was eventually dismissed), they also amended the Mental Health Act to incorporate many of the recommendations I had made for a fairer civil commitment system in Alberta.”
Justice Eidsvik also recalls making several decisions involving actions between geophysical services and multiple oil companies, including one ruling that has been cited internationally where she found that the seismic data collected over 25 years was copyright protected, but that the regulatory regime of the Federal government overruled it to a certain extent.
Unsurprisingly, the toughest cases she had were ones involving children, including managing high conflict child alienation situations.
“I lost sleep over those,” she recalls. “Also, I dealt with several criminal child death cases which were particularly tragic.”
Justice Eidsvik also enjoyed the extracurricular work she did as a judge.
“I was honoured to be part of the Canadian delegation for the International Association of Judges (IAJ) meetings in Morocco and Kazakhstan, where I spoke on judicial wellness and litigation costs issues,” she says, adding she also recently represented Canada at the IAJ AGM in Israel where she spoke about virtual trials in Canadian civil courts and diversity in the Judiciary.
“Meeting judges from around the world who grapple with the same problems, and have different solutions to deal with them, was very gratifying.”
So, what are you missing since leaving the Court?
“I miss the Court and my colleagues of course and being part of the efforts to improve the justice system from the Bench, including with the use of technology,” she says. “That said, I hope to keep my hand in the law in different ways, especially the technological side of law which is a fascinating new access to justice solution in my view.”
Justice Eidsvik attended law school at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law after obtaining a BA in Psychology from the University of Waterloo in 1980 and graduated in the law class of 1983.
She articled with Brownlee Fryett in Edmonton, conducting litigation of all types, and was then hired, becoming the only woman in the firm and first female associate ever hired on in 50 years.
In 1986 she moved to Calgary and joined Fenerty Robertson Fraser and Hatch (now Denton’s after many mergers), where she continued to practise civil litigation, initially in insurance and personal injury, and then moving on to contract, oil and gas, professional liability, health law, and intellectual property cases.
Justice Eidsvik became the first female partner of the then 75-year-old firm in 1991 and got involved in management at the time of the merger with Milner Steer that created Milner Fenerty. She later became the local then national leader of the litigation department.
She was appointed a QC (now KC) in 2004.
In 2005 she moved to Bennett Jones to focus on intellectual property litigation and was practising there when she was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench.