Chief Justice Joseph P. Kennedy

A native of Enfield, N.S., Chief Justice Kennedy, 74, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Mary’s University and graduated with his law degree from Dalhousie University in 1968. He was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in January 1969 and practiced law in Bridgewater from 1969 to 1978. During that time, he also served as the Federal Crown Prosecutor for the South Shore.

Chief Justice Kennedy was first appointed a Judge of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia in September 1978, presiding primarily in Bridgewater and Lunenburg. In July 1993, he was appointed as Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and then Chief Judge in July 1996. During his years on the Provincial Court, Chief Justice Kennedy also held the position of President of the Nova Scotia Provincial Court Judges’ Association.

In April 1997, Chief Justice Kennedy was elevated to the Supreme Court, where he sat as a puisne judge for three months before being appointed as that Court’s Associate Chief Justice in July 1997. A year later, in July 1998, he was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

During his 41 years on the Bench, Chief Justice Kennedy has presided over thousands of cases, some, like the 1990 criminal trial of Dr. Henry Morgentaler, that helped shape the constitutional landscape in this province and across the country.

In 1989, Dr. Morgentaler was charged with performing unlawful abortions, contrary to the Medical Services Act of Nova Scotia. At the trial in the Provincial Court, Chief Justice Kennedy found that the Medical Services Act and the regulations made pursuant to it were criminal law. Thus, they were beyond the jurisdiction of the province and therefore were invalid legislation. More specifically, Chief Justice Kennedy found that the law was made primarily to control and restrict abortions within the province. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal affirmed his decision and it was also unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, .

Chief Justice Kennedy is also a strong proponent of media access to the Courts. He is a past member of the Nova Scotia Courts’ Media Liaison Committee and was among the first judges in this province to allow live tweeting from inside the courtroom in 2014. He regularly speaks with journalism students about the Courts’ relationship with the media and has helped develop policies and guidelines that ensure media and the public have more consistent access to court proceedings and documents.

A member of the Canadian Judicial Council for 20 years, Chief Justice Kennedy has been involved with several national judicial committees, including the Judicial Conduct Committee. He is an active public speaker of considerable note throughout Nova Scotia, as well as in many parts of Canada and the United States.

Chief Justice Kennedy has no immediate plans for his retirement, but he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Helen, their children, and grandchildren at the family cottage on Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

The next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has yet to be named. That appointment is made by the federal Cabinet based on recommendations from the Prime Minister of Canada. In the interim, the Associate Chief Justices of the Supreme Court General and Family Divisions will oversee the administration of those Courts.