Well-known St. John’s defence lawyer Bill Collins is being remembered by people in the legal community as a superb lawyer, a passionate voice and a true gentleman.
Collins passed away Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Mercy Home.
From fellow lawyers to judges, his passing saddened many who dealt with Collins at various capacities at the provincial court and Newfoundland Supreme Court levels.
The news hit Mike King extremely hard.
In 2006, when King was just a cub counsel, Collins hired him to work at his firm. King stayed there until Collins retired in 2012.
“Bill was like a second father to me. He really was,” said King, a partner with Sullivan Breen King law firm.
“He took me under his wing when I was a young lawyer and taught me so much. I’ll be forever grateful to him for that.”
He looked up to Collins and respected him professionally and personally. Collins was a mentor to him who taught him how to conduct himself as a lawyer and remain respectful.
King, who said Collins was always a pleasant person, has many fond memories of Collins. But he can recall one particular moment during a murder trial, in which Collins was representing the accused.
“During a court break, Bill went over to the victim’s family and offered his condolences. I had never seen that before and I haven’t seen it since,” King said.
“It’s an extremely difficult thing to do for many reasons. But Bill could pull that off, despite the situation and our role in it. The family appreciated that very much. That’s just the type of person he was — the epitome of the perfect gentleman.”
Collins, who held the Queens Counsel designation, went to school at St. Bon’s College and Brother Rice high school before graduating from St. Francis Xavier and Dalhousie law school. He first stood in front of a judge in 1972 and went on to represent clients in many high-profile cases.
Some of his clients, included Randy Druken, who was given a $2-million settlement from government for being wrongfully convicted of the 1993 murder of his girlfriend. Collins also worked on murder cases involving Ashley Wheadon and Ilir Mustafa.
He also led Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Association and later as the Commissioner with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Provincial court Judge David Orr was on the bench a number of times on cases in which Collins was representing accused persons.
“Bill was a fabulous trial lawyer. He was always a very thorough counsel. He would always prepare extensively for his cases. He always did a great job for his clients,” said Orr, who noted Collins worked on some notorious drug cases in the early days and led the way in understanding technical arguments.
“But Bill was always very friendly and personable. He always had something nice to say to everyone, a very gracious person.”
Collins leaves to mourn his wife of 42 years, Christine, two sons Jonathan and Michael, along with three grandchildren and three brothers.
He’s resting at Carnell’s Funeral Home, 329 Freshwater Rd. Saturday and Sunday. His funeral is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday from St. Pius X Church.