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Retiring judge honoured by peers

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Touching tributes: retiring Justice Norma Wade-Willer was honoured at a special ceremony yesterday, with peers, friends and family celebrating her 35 years of service (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Bermuda’s legal community paid tribute to the retiring Justice Norma Wade-Miller at a special ceremony in Hamilton.

Yesterday afternoon, the Puisne Judge’s peers, friends and family packed into Court 1 of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building.

Chief Justice Ian Kawaley, presiding over the jovial and lighthearted event, called Justice Wade-Miller “the complete judge” and “an outstanding role model” in her 35 years of service since arriving on the island from her native Jamaica.

She was the first woman in Bermuda to be appointed as a substantive magistrate then as a high court judge, as well as the island’s first female Acting Chief Justice. She has also served as chairwoman of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board for the past 25 years, as chairwoman of the Judicial Training Institute of Bermuda since 2008, and as Bermuda’s representative in the International Hague Network of Judges since 2012.

Chief Justice Kawaley spoke about Justice Wade-Miller’s time as chairwoman of the Justice System Review Committee and the Family Law Reform Subcommittee, calling them “important initiatives which have borne bountiful fruit”. Larry Mussenden, the newly appointed Director of Public Prosecutions, was among those who shared their memories of working with her, as well as their admiration and gratitude.

“Your presence in the courtroom has always been a calming factor in trials,” Mr Mussenden said. “You have a way of making sure the most serious matter is heard properly and fairly on both sides.”

Richard Horseman, president of the Bermuda Bar Association, said: “You set a path for others and through your efforts you have helped shape the direction of law in Bermuda. All my brothers and sisters recognise your distinguished career. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.”

In a sometimes emotional speech, Justice Wade-Miller thanked the speakers for their “thoughtful and generous” tributes, and called the event “a bittersweet moment”.

“I leave the bench in a reflective mood, but with many happy memories,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to make a contribution towards the betterment of our society in the meaningful, albeit less conspicuous ways, that retirement allows.”

Magistrate Nicole Stoneham has been appointed as a Puisne Judge of the Bermuda Supreme Court in Justice Wade-Miller’s place, having served as magistrate since 2010, mainly in the Family Court.

Fond farewell: Justice Norma Wade-Miller says she is leaving the bench with “many happy memories” (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Shedding a tear: Justice Norma Wade-Miller was hailed as an "outstanding role model" (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)