THE ADVOCATE 741
VOL. 77 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
The Honourable Mary Marvyn Koenigsberg
The Honourable Mary Marvyn Koenigsberg, who
retired from the Supreme Court of British Columbia
in 2017 after 25 years on the bench, passed away on
June 16, 2019, with her husband Luby by her side.
Marv always described herself as looking like a
cross between Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand. It is
true that she had an air of being really smart, somewhat
mouthy and from New York. She was really smart and somewhat
mouthy but she wasn’t from New York. She was from Bellflower, Illinois, the
daughter of a country doctor, Noah Koenigsberg, and her remarkable
mother, Mary, who lived well into her nineties.
Marv moved to London, Ontario in 1967 and, despite retaining slight remnants
of an American accent, she became quintessentially Canadian,
intensely interested in and knowledgeable about her adopted country. I
don’t know whether Marv set out to be a trailblazer or simply couldn’t help
herself. I suspect the latter. She graduated from the University of Western
Ontario Faculty of Law on the dean’s list, won the course prize in Torts,
clerked at the Ontario High Court and joined McCarthy Tétrault in Toronto
in the mid-1970s. This was a time, one of Marv’s colleagues recounts, when
women were seen as too emotional to litigate and likely to give up their
careers to stay home raising children. According to the published history of
McCarthys, however, Marv was “the first female litigator to crack the allmale
barrier—and crack the macho ethos—of litigation” in that firm.
In 1982 she and Luby moved to Vancouver, where she became a partner
at Bull Housser & Tupper, as it then was. From there, she and Loryl Russell
moved on to form their own firm and conducted high-profile Aboriginal litigation,
including Delgamuukw v. British Columbia. Her work on this case
gave her an opportunity to spend time in Smithers, a town for which she
developed a real affection. She became interested in Aboriginal law, not
only in the areas of title and rights litigation, but also in residential school
settlements. She assisted in reconciling and settling many cases in this area.
Marv was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1992,
and after sitting for many years in Vancouver decided to move to Smithers
in 2008 and arranged to sit there as a resident supernumerary judge. She
was known affectionately by everyone who worked in the Smithers courthouse
as “Judge K”.