Retired justice Roger Kerans was an authority on appellate courts, and an international arbitrator

Alumnus had a full third career after retiring from bench in 1997

Helen Metella - 07 September 2021

Justice Roger Kerans, a University of Alberta Faculty of Law alumnus who retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta in 1997, has died in Victoria, B.C. He was 87.

He is remembered for having written more than 1,000 reported decisions that helped shape constitutional, civil liberties and criminal law in Canada, for his work after leaving the judiciary as an international arbitrator, and for his incisive mind and conviviality.

Kerans, ‘56 LLB, was a judge for 27 years, beginning with his appointment to Alberta’s District Court in 1970. At the time he joined the bench, he was the youngest person to be appointed to a federal court in Alberta. When the District Court merged with the Alberta Supreme Court in 1979, Kerans became a judge on the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. He was elevated to the Alberta Court of Appeal in 1980. He also served as a deputy judge for the Yukon Supreme Court.

As a lawyer, he practised with the Edmonton firm that subsequently became Ogilvie LLP.  While a judge, he became bilingual and in the late 1980s presided at the first appellate hearing in Alberta conducted entirely in French. 

In 1994, he published Standards of Review Employed by Appellate Courts, a significant reference book for Canadian appellate judges. He was one of the first judges in Canada to introduce computer technology to the courts and was instrumental in the development of electronic appeal books. 

For more than 20 years, he taught Charter law, jurisprudence and court management at judicial seminars and was a longtime director and chair of the Legal Education Society of Alberta. After he retired, he lectured in oil and gas law at the University of Victoria. 


Also after retiring as a judge, he was counsel to the Calgary law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais. Following that he became an arbitrator. In 2001, he was named to the Canadian roster of the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Court of Arbitration, Paris. He was a Fellow of that institute, served on the executive committee of the Canadian branch, and was named by the ICC to conduct international commercial arbitrations. 

Outside of his legal career he maintained a legion of other interests. While practising law, he served as a director of the Edmonton Symphony, the Catholic Indian and Métis Service and the Native Friendship Centre. He was an Alberta member of the Liberal Party of Canada and served as co-chair of its election campaign in 1968. He was national president of the Kidney Foundation of Canada from 1975 to 1979.  

In 2019, he was made a member of the Order of Canada.

A celebration of his life is planned to take place in Victoria on October 2, 2021, with details to be announced soon.