The Honourable James Herbert "Herb" Laycraft, former Chief Justice of Alberta and partner of Bennett Jones, passed away on Wednesday, August 5, at the age of 91.
Throughout his career as a litigator and judge, Laycraft was often cited as fair-minded and influential, especially during his time as the Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Appeal from 1985 to 1991, where he took the lead in constitutional law following the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms passage.
In addition to constitutional law, judgements throughout his career also covered the areas of real estate, torts, and criminal and administrative law.
The current Alberta Court of Appeal Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, quoted in a Calgary Herald article from August 8, 2015, said that Laycraft was "a mixture of the practitioner, the scholar, the reformer, the mentor and the administrator."
Laycraft paved the way for the post-Charter world that Canadians inhabit by delivering important rulings regarding affirmative action, wire tapping, and investigative procedures involving the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Born in Veteran, Alberta, Mr. Laycraft served with the Royal Canadian Artillery in Australia during World War II. He was later admitted to the Alberta bar in 1952.
The Legal Archives Society of Alberta hails Mr. Laycraft's career as "formidable" and describes Laycraft himself as a "prolific judicial mind, thorough and analytical in his judgements."