|HISTORY/BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH: ||Dates of founding and/or dissolution:|
The Judicial District of Grande Prairie was initially established as a subdistrict of the Judicial District of Athabasca on December 1, 1919 by Order-in-Council (O.C.) 1875/19. When the Judicial District of Athabasca was abolished on May 1 1920, the Grande Prairie subdistrict of the Judicial District of Athabasca was also abolished (O.C. 702/20). In its place, a new Grande Prairie subdistrict was added to the new Judicial District of Peace River (O.C. 703/20). The subdistrict became the Judicial District of Grande Prairie on April 20, 1954 (O.C. 549/54).
The Judicial District of Grande Prairie is a geographic area in northwestern Alberta that served two functions: the adjudication of cases through the province’s court system and the registration of documents.
The function of the courts within the judicial district is to hear and pass judgment on criminal and civil cases. Criminal offenses included arson, assault, blackmail, extortion, fraud, kidnapping, liquor infractions, manslaughter, murder, perjury, prostitution, public drunkenness, robbery, sexual assault, theft, treason, vandalism, and vagrancy. Civil matters included the administration of deceased person’s estates, contract disputes, foreclosures, probate of wills, property disputes, and small claims disputes over debts.
The courts holding jurisdiction in this judicial district have included the District Court of Alberta (1919-1979), the Trial Division of the Supreme Court of Alberta (1919-1979), the Provincial Court of Alberta (1971-present), and the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (1979-present).
The District also functioned as a registration district for documents pertaining to bankruptcies, chattel mortgages (i.e., claims against possessions), liens (i.e., claims against real estate), and partnerships. This function ended in 1967 when the registration districts were consolidated into a Central Registry by the Chattel Securities Registry Act (S.A. 1966, c. 12).
Predecessor and successor bodies:
Prior to December 1, 1919, civil and criminal matters in this region were heard by a judge of the Supreme Court or a local justice of the peace or magistrate in the Judicial District of Athabasca.
Following the hierarchy of court system, the decisions made during court proceedings in this judicial district can be appealed to a higher court. At the time of the District’s creation in 1919, the judgment of a local magistrate or justice of the peace could be appealed to a judge of the District Court, and then to judges of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Alberta, followed by judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, concluding with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in England. Currently, appeals from judgments of the Provincial Court are heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench, followed by the Alberta Court of Appeal, and conclude with the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Government of Alberta appoints justices of the peace and the judges of the Provincial Court of Alberta (previously known as magistrates), while the Government of Canada appoints the judges of all higher courts within the province.
Although the courts are not part of the Government of Alberta, the Court Services Division of Alberta Justice and Attorney-General employs the personnel who schedule trials and hearings, receive documents, create and maintain case files, and provide courtroom security within the judicial district.
Towns and villages within this judicial district have included Beaverlodge, Grande Prairie, Spirit River, Westlock, and Valleyview.
Since 1919, several judicial officials have presided over legal matters within the District, including magistrates, who became judges in the new Provincial Court of Alberta in 1971; judges of the District Court, judges of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court; and judges of the Court of Queen’s Bench. Other judicial officials within in the judicial district, such as justices of the peace, held limited powers to hear and judge legal matters.
Other officials supporting the operations of the courts include clerks, deputy clerks, sheriffs, deputy sheriffs, court reporters, and process issuers (servers). Clerks receive and file documents submitted to and produced by the court and keep financial accounts. Court reporters create transcripts of court proceedings. Between 1919 and 1995, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs carried out the orders of the courts, such as property seizures, served legal documents on parties to court cases, and provided courtroom security. In some judicial districts, process issuers rather than sheriffs were employed to deliver legal documents to parties involved in court cases.