Stories about the Court

 

Profile on the Honourable Justice David A. Labrenz

Jan 24, 2020

Labrenz_J_ProfileCourt of Queen’s Bench Justice David Labrenz believes his nearly 27 years as a Crown prosecutor well prepared him for a career on the Bench by honing his values and strengths and providing him with experience which was a useful stepping-stone to the process of adjudication.

“A judge should be fair, open-minded and thoughtful,” says Justice Labrenz. “My experience as a prosecutor has left me with a deep sense of open-minded impartiality. I am acutely aware that appearances can be deceiving and that an ‘open and shut’ case can often become a close call.

“A judge must refrain from pre-judging a matter and must wait until all the evidence and argument is heard. Pre-judging is the enemy of justice.”

Justice Labrenz – who was appointed a QB judge in Calgary on May 1, 2018, and sworn in at an October 19, 2018, ceremony – says his prosecutorial tenure also trained him to act in accordance with the principles of courage, integrity, humility and a commitment to justice.

“Legal courage is the willingness to do what the law requires a judge to do, even if it is not the easiest, or the most popular course of action. Integrity is not being influenced by the identity, race, gender, sexual orientation, political status or affluence of the parties or lawyers appearing,” says Labrenz.

“The best judges are sensitive to people and realize that a courtroom is a stressful and alien environment for the uninitiated. A judge needs to be sensitive to the perspective of others,” he says.

“All judges are bound to apply the law and the best judges do so with a constant eye towards fairness in the process. Justice can never be static; it must always strive to improve.”

Justice Labrenz notes that his legal background also left him well acquainted with the conduct of trials and the principles of evidence.

And while the 1986 graduate from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law mainly practised as a prosecutor – with some highlights being the trial prosecution and appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v Mack, a seminal case involving Mr. Big confessions, and the case of two men convicted in the killings of four RCMP officers in Mayerthorpe – he began his legal career as a general practitioner and was appellate counsel for Alberta Justice prior to his appointment.

During his time as a prosecutor – which saw him working in courthouses across Alberta in communities including Lloydminster, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, Peace River, Wetaskiwin and Lethbridge – Justice Labrenz became quite familiar with the diversity of Albertans.

“Criminal courtrooms contain the broadest array of people imaginable, from the affluent and educated, to the poor and unschooled,” he says. “People facing criminal charges and their alleged victims come from every background imaginable, and that diversity reflects itself in race, culture and sexual orientation.”

Justice Labrenz says his prosecutorial work also gave him the opportunity to have extensive involvement with First Nations people, including interacting and learning from Elders and attending traditional dances, powwows, sweat lodges and smudge ceremonies. As well, it gave him wide exposure to the discrimination and suffering experienced by other visible minority groups. It also exposed him to the legal challenges faced by those suffering from mental illness and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. 

The married father of two is the grandson of immigrants who came to Canada with limited education and finances and says he learned from them the value of hard work. When not working, Justice Labrenz enjoys family activities, exercise, watching college football and travel.

“My travels have taught me the value of tolerance and understanding,” says Justice Labrenz. “I believe that true wisdom is acquired from the wide sharing of life experiences, culture and beliefs.”