News release

Changes to Provincial Judicial Appointments Guidelines

The government is taking measures to improve the process for appointing judges to the province’s criminal and family courts.

Amended guidelines, effective today, January 14, will change the structure of the advisory committee, the body that assesses and recommends candidates to the minister of justice for judicial appointments.

“The appointment of judges to the provincial and family courts is one of the most important decisions government has to make so it’s absolutely crucial that we have a robust process in place. These new changes make an already good process better,” said Brad Johns, Attorney General and Minister of Justice.

The changes include adding a retired member of the judiciary to the advisory committee to act as chair. The amendments will also permit the minister to request more information about candidates applying to become judges. There will also be a requirement for Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society members who sit on the committee to be representative of the Nova Scotia legal community, which will help increase diversity on the advisory committee.

The new guidelines will help ensure a more transparent, fair and accountable process for appointing provincial judges.

Key changes include:

  • the justice minister will appoint two members from a list of six lawyers identified by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, and one judge from a list of four full-time sitting provincial and/or family court judges identified by the chief judge
  • the committee will be chaired by a retired member of the judiciary
  • upon request, the committee will provide additional information to the minister of justice that explains and supports its recommendations
  • candidates will demonstrate sensitivity to cultural diversity
  • staggered two-year terms for committee members.

Diversity, including individuals from Indigenous, racial and ethnocultural backgrounds, persons with disabilities, geography and gender balance, remain criteria for appointment to the advisory committee.

The guidelines will continue to ensure that appointments to the bench are based on merit and professional excellence, the highest consideration when appointing judges.

A new advisory committee will be appointed in the coming weeks and qualified lawyers interested in becoming judges will be invited to submit or re-submit their applications.

“I want to thank the outgoing committee members for their excellent work and service. I look forward to appointing a new committee soon,” said Minister Johns.

Quick Facts:

  • the Provincial Judicial Appointments Guidelines have been in place since 1995 and were last amended in 2016; at that time, the years of experience in the legal profession required to apply to be a judge were reduced from 15 to 10 years
  • the advisory committee is currently composed of two members appointed by the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, the chief judge of the provincial court or designate, chief judge of the family court or designate and four members appointed by the minister of justice, two of which must be non-lawyer members representative of the public

Additional Resources:

To view the Provincial Judicial Appointments Guidelines, go to: