Court of Queen's Bench Justice Nancy Dilts credits her years as a Bencher with the Law Society of Alberta (LSA) for her first-hand knowledge of many of the issues facing the judiciary and the justice system in Alberta, including the need to provide access to justice for all Albertans.
“My service as a Bencher was the most rewarding undertaking of my career as a lawyer and, until now, where I felt I made my greatest contribution to the legal profession and the administration of justice,” says Justice Dilts, who was officially sworn in as a Calgary Justice at a September 13, 2018, ceremony.
“I gained insight and understanding into the discussions surrounding access to justice, considering the demands on both the profession and the justice system as a whole,” says Justice Dilts, noting the LSA has a role in opening up pathways to practice to allow for more affordable delivery of legal service.
“Through the LSA, I had the opportunity to engage in discussion regarding the funding and delivery of legal aid in criminal and family matters,” says Justice Dilts, who was appointed to the Bench on May 4, 2018, after being elected to serve her third three-year term as a Bencher.
“I had the benefit of hearing the perspective of the judiciary on the strains on the judicial system as a result of a growing population, the increasing complexity of legal matters and the increasing number of self-represented litigants in the courtrooms,” she says.
The recently sworn-in Calgary Justice - who was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2012 and was recognized as one of Canada’s leading women lawyers in 2013 - worked as a senior executive in four energy sector organizations from 2001 until her appointment to the Bench, carrying responsibility for both legal and non-legal portfolios.
Justice Dilts began working in Alberta’s energy industry in 1995, developing a sophisticated understanding of that industry over 23 years. The University of Saskatchewan College of Law graduate gained valuable legal experience in regulatory, environmental, employment and commercial litigation while also dealing with human rights, landowner and aboriginal issues.
Her role in the energy sector gave Justice Dilts a chance to work with a broad cross section of people, ranging from the economic power of multinational companies to remote impoverished aboriginal communities, giving her a special insight into the variety and diversity of Canadians and their unique perspectives.
“I believe the opportunity to engage with people with different histories, stories, values and skills made me a better leader, better lawyer and better person,” she says.
So why did this highly successful professional executive and mother of three want to become a judge?
“I was raised in a home that valued education and lived the spirit of public service,” says Justice Dilts. “Both of my parents were committed volunteers within their community and taught me by their own actions that it is my responsibility to use my education and skills to help others. The role of a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench is one of public service. I am privileged to have this role and to serve the public in this capacity.”
And what kind of a judge does she aspire to be?
“What I’ve learned in my short time at the Court is that this role demands humility and humanity,” she says. “I hope I can demonstrate both, knowing that my actions every day will impact people’s confidence in our justice system.”