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The Honourable J. Michael MacDonald


Queen’s Marque
600-1741 Lower Water Street
Halifax, N.S.
B3J 0J2



Language(s) spoken: English

Bar Admission(s): Nova Scotia, 1979

Legal Assistant(s): Leona Clements

The Honourable J. Michael MacDonald joined Stewart McKelvey as Counsel in April of 2019 following a distinguished career on the Bench. Mr. MacDonald was appointed a Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in 1995 and the Associate Chief Justice three years later. He became the 22nd Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and the Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in 2004. During his time sitting on both courts, he wrote approximately 500 decisions. A member of the Canadian Judicial Council for twenty years, he has chaired several of its committees, most recently the Judicial Conduct Committee.

As Chief Justice, in 2014, Michael led the creation of the Nova Scotia Access to Justice Coordinating Committee, a group of legal professionals working to make Nova Scotia a national leader in access to justice. During his tenure as Chief Justice, he promoted several judicial outreach initiatives to engage the Indigenous and African Nova Scotia communities. His efforts to foster inclusion on the Bench include creating a judicial mentorship initiative for African Nova Scotian and Indigenous lawyers. He also volunteered with Phoenix Youth to host justice day camps for young people from racialized communities.

Michael’s access to justice initiatives have been recognized by Cape Breton University with an honourary doctorate of laws degree. The Canadian Bar Association (Nova Scotia Branch) has renamed its annual access to justice award the “J. Michael MacDonald Access to Justice Award” to honour Michael’s work in this area.

He has presented at, and participated in, numerous legal conferences in Canada, the United States, and Europe, and has assisted the judiciaries in Kazakhstan and Ukraine. He is a regular guest speaker at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilee medals.

Michael focuses his practice on alternative dispute resolution.

Education & Career


Dalhousie University, LLB, 1979
Mount Allison University, BA, 1976


Member, Canadian Bar Association
Chair, Mass Casualty Commission
Member, African Nova Scotia Access to Justice Judicial Committee
Advisor, Access to Justice and Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia
Board Member, Phoenix Youth
Creator and Chair, Nova Scotia Access to Justice Coordinating Committee, 2014 – 2018
Chair, Canadian Judicial Council, Judicial Conduct Committee, 2014 – 2018
Chair, Nova Scotia Judicial Council, 2004 – 2019
Chair, Executive Office of the Nova Scotia Judiciary, 2004 – 2019
Previous Member, Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society Council
Previous President, Cape Breton Barristers’ Society
Previous Board member, Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation
Guest Speaker, Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law


Cape Breton University, Honourary Doctorate of Laws, 2018
Recipient, Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal
Recipient, Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal
Recipient, Queen’s Platinum Jubilee medal
Honourary Member, International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law


Co-Presenter, “Protecting your Workplace: Trauma Informed Investigations”, Stewart McKelvey Labour & Employment Webinar

May 22, 2024

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