Veteran Edmonton defence lawyer cited with contempt for not wearing a mask in court

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A prominent Edmonton criminal defence lawyer has been cited with contempt of court for not wearing a face covering during a proceeding.

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On Monday, Peter Royal confirmed he is facing a contempt citation for not wearing a mask in court. His office said a hearing on the citation is scheduled for September. 

The exact details of Royal’s citation remain unclear. The Law Society of Alberta said it had no record of any such charges, while search requests for court records were not returned.

While much of the province has done away with COVID-19 mask mandates, Alberta courts continue to require masking in common areas. Whether lawyers are required to wear masks in courtrooms is left to individual judges.

Royal did not elaborate on when and where the alleged contempt occurred, but multiple sources have told Postmedia it happened in provincial court. The provincial court declined to comment, while the Alberta Ministry of Justice said it had no information about the case.

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Royal was called to the bar in 1975 and has represented clients in some of Alberta’s highest profile criminal cases. Among his notable former clients are Clifford Sleigh, who in 2005 was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering six-year-old Corinne “Punky” Gustavson in 1992.

He also served as lawyer for Jason Dix, one of Alberta’s best-known victims of malicious prosecution.

Royal became a Queen’s Counsel in 1986, a distinction awarded to lawyers who have made significant contributions to their fields and their communities. He was a longtime instructor with the University of Alberta law faculty and now lends his name to an award for excellence in sessional teaching.

Royal is married to Mary Moreau, the chief justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench. Since the start of the pandemic, Moreau has been a proponent of masking, virtual court appearances and COVID-related courtroom remodels.

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