Former Supreme Court Justice William Stevenson dies

Alumnus and former Faculty of Law professor co-wrote the Alberta Rules of Court

Helen Metella - 07 July 2021

William (Bill) Stevenson, ’56 LLB, a former justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, has died at age 87.

Stevenson had numerous long-standing ties to the University of Alberta Faculty of Law where he was a recipient of the Horace Harvey Medal (known as the gold medal as it is awarded to the top graduating student each year).

While a student, he founded the Alberta Law Review, a student-run legal journal and served as its first editor in chief.

After practising litigation at the Edmonton firm of Morrow, Morrow & Reynolds (subsequently Morrow, Reynolds and Stevenson, and now Reynolds, Mirth, Richards & Farmer LLP), Stevenson began lecturing at the Faculty in 1963. He was a full-time professor there from 1968 to 1970 before returning to his firm and continuing as a part-time professor for another 15 years.

In 1975, he was the first chair of the Legal Education Society of Alberta. He was appointed to the District Court of Alberta in 1975 and became a justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1979, when the courts merged. In 1980, he was elevated to the Courts of Appeal of Alberta and of the Northwest Territories, where he served for 10 years.

In 1990, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, stepping down for health reasons in 1992.

His judgments were “models of uncommonly fine legal writing, characterized by economical, pithy and scrupulous legal analysis,” said Justice Russell Brown of the Supreme Court of Canada in remarks to an Alberta Law Review reception in 2018.

They were also notable, said Brown, because they covered the full range of legal subjects and most of them were dissents or concurrences, showing Stevenson’s courage and willingness to expose his concerns in ways that benefited Canada.

With Justice Jean E. L. Côté of the Court of Appeal of Alberta, Stevenson wrote the Annotations of The Alberta Rules of Court, which became the Civil Procedure Encyclopedia, a five-volume resource used by lawyers and the courts.

He received an Honorary LLD from the University of Alberta in 1992 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996.

Stevenson leaves his wife, Patricia, four children (including his daughter Vivien, a 1989 alumna of the Faculty) and four grandchildren.