Court of Appeal Pays Tribute to Justice Doane Hallett

Bald white man with a moustache wearing black and white judicial robes.

Past and present judges on the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal shared fond memories and high praise for their former colleague, The Hon. Justice J. Doane Hallett, who passed away on March 12.

The retired judge was 91 years old. 

Justice Hallett obtained his LLB from Dalhousie University in 1955 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws from Saint Mary’s University in 1999. He was admitted to the Nova Scotia Bar in 1956 and practiced his entire career as a lawyer with the firm of MacInnes, Wilson and Hallett. He was named Queen’s Counsel in 1971. 

Justice Hallett was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in 1977. Thirteen years later, he was appointed to the Supreme Court (Appeal Division) and became a Justice of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upon its creation in 1993.

A keen fisherman and an avid golfer, Justice Hallett has been referred to as one of the most highly respected jurists in Nova Scotia.

The Hon. Jamie Saunders, a retired justice of the Court of Appeal, remembers appearing before Justice Hallett on many occasions. He described him as “a no-nonsense judge”.

“He was a fine jurist; smart, always well prepared, respectful, tough, demanding and fair — all qualities that I appreciated,” said Justice Saunders. “His written and oral decisions were crisp, sound, clear and persuasive. And despite knowing very little about criminal law in the beginning, through study and hard work, he became an expert in the field, writing many leading, frequently cited judgments.”

Retired Justice Nancy Bateman also appeared before Justice Hallett as a lawyer, and from 1995 onward she worked alongside him as a colleague on the Court of Appeal.

“I was only the second female judge on the Court of Appeal at that time,” Justice Bateman recalled. “He was very welcoming and a pleasure to work with.

“Of course, the Court of Appeal sits in panels of three; sitting on a panel with Justice Hallett was great. He always thoroughly analyzed the case before us and was very polite and respectful in his questions to counsel. The cases he wrote were very understandable and when the result was overturning the trial judge below, his writing was always well mannered and respectful.”

During his 25-year judicial career, Justice Hallett was involved with many provincial and national committees, including serving on the national Ethics Advisory Committee and the Judicial Independence Committee.

Justice Hallett was also an advocate of judicial education. He regularly lectured at National Judicial Institute conferences and was extremely active in the development of the Appellate Courts seminar.

He elected supernumerary status in 1997 and retired from the Bench in 2002.

Justice Hallett was predeceased by his wife, Marjorie Hallett, known better as Marge, and his daughter, Cynthia. He is survived by his children, Joseph, Helen, Mary and his five grandchildren. His full obituary is available online here.