SIMS: Wally Libis was famend as a defence lawyer. And as a pal

Prison defence work wasn’t simply Wally Libis’s career, it was his goal.

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Prison defence work wasn’t simply Wally Libis’s career, it was his goal.

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That’s how he noticed every single day he spent at his workplace and within the London courthouse, along with his battered leather-based satchel stuffed with information slung over his shoulder. His shoppers adored him. And when he spoke, judges listened.

“Frankly, your honour,” Libis would say a couple of shopper being sentenced, “he wasn’t dealt a number of aces.”

Libis, who was born in Latvia in the course of the Second World Battle and got here to Canada as a baby along with his household from a refugee camp, understood his personal success.

“As a result of he was dealt all of the aces, he was obliged to do what he might for many who weren’t,” stated Bob Sheppard, one in all Libis’s closest pals and a fellow felony lawyer.

Libis, 79, died on Tuesday after an sickness. His dying despatched a shock via the tight-knit London courthouse group the place Libis was a pal and mentor.

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What hit so laborious was dropping a mainstay of the felony bar, who confirmed a lot compassion and experience in his work. Libis’s apply spanned over 5 a long time and at one level he was the busiest felony lawyer in London.

Most notable amongst his shoppers was Russell Johnson, the Seventies serial assassin who scaled up residence constructing balconies to seek out victims. Libis was additionally one of many legal professionals concerned within the Helmut Buxbaum case, representing Robert Barrett, a small-time drug supplier who testified he was employed by Buxbaum to homicide Buxbaum’s spouse, Hanna.

Libis’s advocacy went effectively past the largest instances and dozens of homicide trials. Shoppers gravitated to him and so they trusted his sensible authorized strategy.

“He didn’t speak to them like a lawyer,” Sheppard stated, “He talked to them like a clever pal. He didn’t give them authorized recommendation, he urged them to present the correct determination, to do what was proper within the basic sense whereas doing what was proper for themselves.”

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“He had extra compassion for folks and he handled them — proper from the primary day he met them till the final day he noticed them — the identical, which is with dignity and compassion,” stated Ontario Courtroom Justice John Skowronski, one other shut pal.

Libis was born Valdis Libis and he was immensely pleased with his Latvian roots. His household settled in Hamilton and he typically instructed the story about his mom sending him carrying lederhosen to the primary day of college.

He made his mark as an athlete in soccer and hockey at highschool, McMaster College and Osgoode Corridor legislation college.

In London, he gained pals and respect in pickup hockey video games. “Wally was participant and he was an exquisite lawyer who took on powerful instances,” stated Peter Hockin, retired Superior Courtroom justice who was typically on the ice with Libis.

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“Whether or not Wally was in a courtroom or dressing room, time spent with him there was at all times a spot I realized one thing and grew to evermore get pleasure from his firm. It is a unhappy day for therefore many,” he stated.

Geoff Beasley, retired Middlesex County Crown legal professional, was a detailed pal regardless that they had been on reverse sides of the courtroom. Legal professionals, out of custom, name one another “pal” in courtroom, however “he was truly extra of my pal outdoors the courtroom,” Beasley stated.

The folks closest to him say Libis by no means went midway on something. He cherished an journey, whether or not it was snowboarding, mountain biking or motorcycling. He was at all times the primary native lawyer to check out a brand new laptop program or gadget. He had his personal sense of vogue. His love of snacks grew to become working joke amongst his pals.

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You can nearly hear his coronary heart swell when he talked about his spouse Lorrie and his three youngsters, Jeff and his spouse Kim, Michael and his fiancée Caroline, and Jennifer. His telephone was full of images of his grandson and granddaughter.

“In Wally’s world there was household, there have been his shoppers after which there was him,” Skowronski stated.

Libis was nonetheless in apply earlier than his dying, however he had in the reduction of on his caseload.

On Wednesday, London lawyer Anthony Little, one other Libis pal, was in digital adjournment courtroom within the Ontario Courtroom. When he was completed along with his instances, Little requested to talk to the session about Libis.

“I stated I’m going to be very unhappy that I’m not going to see Wally Libis on this display,” he stated. A number of different legal professionals chimed in. Many had tears.

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