EDMONTON – Lawyers are returning to court today in the case of Travis Vader. Justice Denny Thomas convicted Vader two weeks ago of second-degree murder in the deaths of Lyle and Marie McCann, but his ruling came under criticism almost immediately for using a section of the Criminal Code declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court years ago. An expert in environmental law as a lawyer, Thomas has been at the centre of several high-profile cases since being appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 2005.
Here are some of them:
2014 — Thomas handed down a ruling that ordered a freeze on then-premier Alison Redford’s attempts to impose an austere four-year wage deal on the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees while revoking its right to binding arbitration. Thomas excoriated Redford’s Tory government for what he described as deceptive, high-handed, unfair bargaining tactics designed to “emasculate” its largest public-sector union.
2012 — Thomas acquitted two men, Donny Barabash, 60, and Shane Rollison, 41, of making child pornography after they videotaped two 14-year-old girls performing sex acts. Thomas accepted that the so-called private-use exception was available to the men as a defence. The Alberta Court of Appeal split on its decision, but the Supreme Court ordered a new trial saying that exception cannot be used if it is determined that the girls were sexually exploited.
2011 — Thomas heard the case of a disputed $33 million lotto jackpot. Thomas awarded the ticket to Alberta father-of-two Mike Hayduk after others came forward to claim the prize. One man thought he lost the winning ticket in a friend’s car. Two believed they tossed it in the trash. And a pair of co-workers got nervous when the person in charge of their group lotto pool didn’t show up at the office for a few days. Thomas criticized the lottery corporation for bringing such a flimsy case to court.
2007 — Thomas heard the case that saw the body of slain Mayerthorpe Mountie Leo Johnston moved from its resting place in Lac La Biche, Alta., to the RCMP’s national cemetery in Regina. The move was made at the request of Johnston’s widow over the objection of the officer’s parents.