Justice Michael J. Lema, who was appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench on December 19, 2017, and officially sworn in on October 5, 2018, came to the Court from the Department of Justice Canada’s Edmonton office. He started there in 1992 as Counsel in Property and Commercial Law and was General Counsel in Tax Law Services before his appointment.
During his 26 years at Justice Canada, Justice Lema did litigation and advisory work, primarily for the Canada Revenue Agency and the Superintendent of Bankruptcy, focusing on creditors’ rights, taxation, and constitutional issues. He also provided advice on creditors’ rights and tax issues to Department colleagues across the country. His litigation work included trial-level and appellate work, including eight appearances for Canada in the Supreme Court of Canada on creditors’ rights and constitutional issues.
The Edmonton-born judge was also a member of the Prairie Region Law and Litigation Committee, where he reviewed appellate factums in diverse practice areas, and he delivered seminars for Justice Canada colleagues across the country on subjects including Crown priorities and strategic legal writing.
He was a frequent contributor to professional-development events, preparing and delivering papers for organizations including the Canadian Bar Association, the Legal Education Society of Alberta, and the Canadian Tax Foundation. He guest-lectured at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and the Department of Civil Engineering on creditors’ rights, construction issues, appellate advocacy, and effective legal writing.
Justice Lema graduated from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law in 1986 following a Bachelor of Commerce at the U of A in 1983. He articled with Bryan & Company in Edmonton and then practiced at Duncan Collins LLP in Calgary (now the Calgary office of Blake Cassels & Graydon) before joining Justice Canada.
Outside of work, Justice Lema served on the board of directors of the Canadian Cancer Society (Alberta and Northwest Territories Division) in Edmonton and Calgary, helped raise funds for the United Way and Sign of Hope campaigns in Edmonton, and helped launch the Expo Science Katherine O’Connell (school science fair) at École Notre Dame in Edmonton.
He lives in Edmonton with his partner, their children, and a large collection of backpacks, lunch kits, ski gear, soccer balls and hockey sticks.
So why did Justice Lema seek to become a judge, and what kind of judge does he aspire to be?
“I would like to do my part in making the protections and benefits of the law available to all who need them,” he says, adding “This is a serious responsibility and I will try to bring insight, energy, practicality and patience to my role.”