John Walpole Willis

John Walpole Willis, judge (b in Eng 4 Jan 1793; d in Worcestershire, Eng 10 Sept 1877). Willis arrived in Upper Canada in 1827 to take office as puisne justice of the court of King's Bench.

Willis, John Walpole

John Walpole Willis, judge (b in Eng 4 Jan 1793; d in Worcestershire, Eng 10 Sept 1877). Willis arrived in Upper Canada in 1827 to take office as puisne justice of the court of King's Bench. His arrogant conduct soon offended the political establishment, and he quarrelled with John Beverley ROBINSON over the Assembly's failure to pass legislation establishing a court of chancery, in which the imperial government had intended Willis to preside. When, at the Home District Assizes of Apr 1828, the journalist Francis Collins accused Robinson of political bias in the conduct of criminal prosecutions, Willis supported Collins and rebuked Robinson in public for mishandling his duties as attorney general. In June 1828 Willis publicly proclaimed that the court of King's Bench had often been informally constituted, implying that most of its proceedings since its founding in 1794 were invalid. Suspended by Lt-Gov Sir Peregrine MAITLAND, Willis was later exonerated on technical grounds. Subsequently he held judicial appointments in Demerara and in Australia, where he was again dismissed after quarrelling with the lt-gov of New South Wales. Willis was a conceited snob who lent himself to an important political cause out of vanity. His dismissal precipitated the first public campaign for RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT and reinforced the demand for an independent colonial judiciary.