The Honourable Edward M. Culliton
1951 - 1962 Justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal
1962 - 1981 Chief Justice of Saskatchewan
Edward M. Culliton was born to Irish-Canadian parents in Grand Forks, Minnesota on April 9, 1906. The family moved to Canada, and his father worked in several Saskatchewan towns. He attended high school in Elbow, and graduated in 1921. He then went on to study at the University of Saskatchewan, earning an arts degree in 1926 and a law degree in 1928. During his time at University, he served as business manager of the University newspaper, The Sheaf, and as president of the Students’ Representative Council.
Mr. Culliton articled with Thomas Gallant, K.C. in Gravelbourg, taking over his practice when Mr.Gallant was appointed in 1930 to the Gravelbourg District Court. Mr. Culliton’s busy practice included defending farmers from foreclosure during the Depression and some high profile criminal cases. Although he sometimes had to accept farm produce in lieu of fees, Mr. Culliton was a well-known and relatively prosperous young lawyer in the early 1930s.
In 1935, when Mr. Culliton was only 29 years old, he was elected Liberal MLA for the Gravelbourg constituency. Three years later, he became the Provincial Secretary responsible for the Saskatchewan Tax Commission and the King’s Printer. In 1939, he married Katharine Hector of Dysart.
On May 1, 1941, Mr. Culliton resigned from the provincial cabinet to serve with the Canadian Army. While at war, he retained his seat in the legislature as a Minister without portfolio. During his absence, the Liberal administration was defeated by the C.C.F. in 1944. When he returned from the war, Mr. Culliton returned to his law practice in Gravelbourg. He ran for the leadership of the Liberal party in 1946, losing to Walter A. Tucker. He was elected once again as the MLA from the Gravelbourg constituency and became a vocal financial critic of the Tommy Douglas government.
In 1951, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent appointed Mr. Culliton to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal . When Chief Justice Hall was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1962, Justice Culliton succeeded him as Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal. Justice Culliton also served as Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan for six years. In 1963, he received an honourary degree recognizing his life-long service to the University.
Chief Justice Culliton was noted for his firm leadership style on the bench. His tenure as Chief Justice continued until his retirement in 1981. He passed away in March, 1991.
As a tribute to Justice Culliton, the Law Society of Saskatchewan established the “Chief Justice E.M. Culliton Scholarship” in 1981. This special scholarship is awarded in perpetuity for post-graduate studies in criminal law. Many Saskatchewan scholars have benefited from this legacy.
In 2006, the Office of the Saskatchewan Information and Privacy Commissioner introduced an annual Chief Justice E.M. Culliton 'Right to Know' Award. The award is presented to a government institution or local authority that demonstrates leadership in promoting open and accountable government. It was named in Chief Justice Culliton's honour as a tribute to his support for freedom of information laws, which helped Saskatchewan become the first province in Western Canada to pass The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.