Betton appointed Supreme Court justice

For more than 20 years as a defence lawyer, Vernon’s Al Betton made sure, when he was going into B.C. Supreme Court, he knew what judge was sitting.

For more than 20 years as a defence lawyer, Vernon’s Al Betton made sure, when he was going into B.C. Supreme Court, he knew what judge was sitting.

Betton would do his homework and find out about a certain judge’s nuances, or how one judge might emphasize different matters.

Now that he’s sitting as a Supreme Court justice, Betton is expecting lawyers to do the same about him.

Betton, 50, was recently appointed to the B.C. Supreme Court after four years as a provincial court judge.

“We’ve always been lucky in that we’ve always had good judges in the valley and as a lawyer, you have to work to who your audience is,” said Betton, recently returned from an annual motorcycle excursion with five friends to northern California. “No doubt, the same now applies to me.”

Betton’s appointment comes just after four-plus years since he was named to the provincial court judge ranks after more than 20 years as a defence lawyer with Vernon’s Nixon-Wenger firm.

He was officially welcomed to the Supreme Court at a small ceremony in Kelowna.

“It’s obviously a huge responsibility and a huge honour to make the cut,” said Betton, whose appointment brings to four the number of B.C. Supreme Court judges in the Okanagan.

He expects to spend the majority of time working cases in Vernon and Kelowna, though he will get called to preside over trials in Vancouver.

Betton’s promotion won’t change his view of the work being easier or harder going from provincial court matters to Supreme Court. Both levels, for him, are fascinating and rewarding.

“In provincial court, there’s a much bigger volume, more cases, more people and a little more people-oriented as there is more direct dealing with people, more people are self-represented,” he said. “There are more cases, it’s more hands-on and there’s a little less writing as you make so many decisions on the bench.

“Supreme Court is a little more paper heavy by nature, and it tends to be a little denser from legal issues and the cases tend to be longer and the volume drops off. You spend more time reading and writing in Supreme than in provincial. Both courts have their challenges.”

Betton began his Supreme Court career with a criminal trial case in Kelowna.