Retired Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta Justice Carolyn Phillips was particularly interested in family law matters during her more than a quarter century on the Bench and always aimed to resolve those disputes in a timely, cost-efficient way without the parties having to go to trial.
Justice Phillips, who was appointed to Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary on November 29, 1994, retired on September 3, 2021, after having served nearly 27 years.
“I am honoured and humbled to have been a judge of this Court and to have had the good fortune and opportunity to serve Albertans for these many years,” says Justice Phillips.
“I have very much enjoyed my time as a QB judge, where every day has brought new challenges and allowed me to grow as a person,” she says.
“I will miss the interaction with the public and litigants that appear in our courts every day. I enjoyed working with them in trying to resolve their family matters as amicably and fairly as possible.”
Her keen interest in family law led Justice Phillips to being a member of the Court’s Family Law Steering Committee for several years.
She is also a big promoter of the use of Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) and Early Intervention Case Conferences (EICCs) as she found they allowed for family disputes to be resolved without the parties having to go to the expense of a trial.
“I found that to be the most satisfying aspect of my judicial work,” she says.
The retired Calgary jurist adds she is also going to miss hearing the various civil and criminal trials that regularly come before the Court.
“In every trial I presided over, I trust that I dispensed justice fairly, impartially and with understanding of the litigant’s concerns,” she says.
Veteran ABQB Justice Patrick Sullivan was a long-time colleague of Justice Phillips and says the Court has “lost an excellent judge.” He describes her as being always dedicated to her work and diligent in pre-trial preparation and says she showed patience with self-represented litigants and a determined effort to explain the law and how it impacted their case.
“On top of all this, Justice Phillips was a team player and always ready with a helpful tip or a handy precedent for a colleague. Her knowledge of the law was expansive and thorough. At conferences or at court meetings, she was always ready with a probing question or an insightful comment on the topic under discussion,” says Justice Sullivan.
In commenting on Justice Phillips’ retirement, ABQB Justice Colleen Kenny said: “she was sought after by the bar as their choice of judge for family JDRs and EICCs due to her hard work in trying to resolve family matters as amicably as possible.”
Justice Phillips says her time on the Bench has been “rewarding and satisfying,” which she credits to the solid support she received from her Chief Justices, Associate Chief Justices and all the QB staff and legal research officers.
“I will miss the collegiality of the Court, especially from my colleagues, many of whom have become close friends,” she says. “I have observed over the years that my colleagues and support staff are a group of hardworking and dedicated people who are always there to assist you when needed and I will miss their support and their wise advice.”
Justice Phillips attended the University of Manitoba, receiving a BA (Major in Mathematics, Minor in Political Science) in 1973 and then earning an LLB in 1976. She was admitted to the Manitoba Bar in 1977 and the Alberta Bar in 1979.
She articled with the Manitoba Attorney General and was in-house counsel with Great West Life Assurance Company in Winnipeg before joining Parlee McLaws LLP, where she practised primarily in the areas of corporate/commercial and residential real estate. At the time of her QB appointment, she was a partner in the firm.
Prior to her appointment, Justice Phillips was actively involved in the Better Business Bureau of Calgary and served as its Chair. She was also on the Executive of the Association of Women Lawyers.
As a judge, Justice Phillips organized and chaired a conference on Judicial Dispute Resolution for the Alberta QB Judges and acted several times as a Facilitator at various conferences held by the National Judicial Institute for both provincial and federally appointed Judges.
She also was a Member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Canadian Bar Association (Judges’ Chapter) and the International Association of Women Judges (Canadian Chapter).
Over the years as a judge, she has acted as a principal and/or mentor to several articling students.
Justice Phillips has been married to John F. Cordeau, QC, for more than 41 years and they have two adult children and two grandchildren.
So, what are her plans for retirement?
“Although I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Court, I am looking forward to spending time with my family and two granddaughters, travelling with my husband, having time to pursue my own interests such as reading and hiking, and perhaps doing some volunteer work,” she says.
“I also hope to take up golf again and get more proficient on my computer skills. If anything, these past 18 months of the pandemic have impressed upon me to take the time and just enjoy life after retiring from my work as a judge.”