12/12/2017 10:12 EST | Updated 12/14/2017 13:08 EST

Richard Wagner Named New Supreme Court Of Canada Chief Justice

The current chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, is stepping down after 28 years on the court.

POOL New / Reuters
Supreme Court Judge Richard Wagner arrives to his public swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court of Canada Dec. 3, 2012.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed Quebec-born Justice Richard Wagner to be the next chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Wagner, 60, was born in Montreal and earned a law degree from the University of Ottawa in 1979.

He practised law for more than 20 years, focusing on professional liability and on commercial litigation related in particular to real estate law, oppression remedies and class action suits.

"It is an honour to name the honourable Richard Wagner as the new chief justice of Canada,'' Trudeau said in a statement.

The judiciary is only accountable to the person subject to trial.Richard Wagner

"I have the utmost confidence in his ability to lead the highest court of Canada, an institution with a long and respected history of judicial independence and excellence. The judiciary, the legal profession, and all Canadians will be well served by his dedication to upholding the laws and Constitution upon which this country is founded.''

As a Quebec Superior Court judge, he sat on several of the court's committees, including the judicial practice committee for training of newly appointed judges. He was named to the Supreme Court by Stephen Harper in 2012.

Wagner is a self-declared advocate of judicial independence, once saying that "the judiciary is only accountable to the person subject to trial.''

He is the middle child of former Quebec Liberal cabinet minister and one-time federal Conservative leadership candidate Claude Wagner.

Current chief served for 18 years

Trudeau had been under pressure from some quarters to name a Quebecer as chief, in keeping with the tradition of alternating between a civil code jurist from Quebec and a common-law one.

The current chief justice, Beverley McLachlin, is stepping down after 28 years on the court, including almost 18 years as chief.

McLachlin, 74, is the first woman to hold the top job on the high court and is also Canada's longest-serving chief justice.