Judge re­mem­bered as sin­cere and hum­ble

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

Re­tired Su­pe­rior Court jus­tice Nick Borkovich is be­ing re­mem­bered as a kind, friendly and hum­ble man with a clever le­gal mind.

Borkovich died May 19 at the age of 81. He re­tired from the Ontario Su­pe­rior Court of Jus­tice in Hamil­ton in 2010.

“He was just so easy to get along with. He was a won­der­ful man,” says his long­time pal, Wal­ter Stayshyn, a re­tired Su­pe­rior Court jus­tice who had an en­dur­ing and close friend­ship with Borkovich th­ese past 67 years.

The two, both east-end Hamil­ton boys and both the chil­dren of hard-work­ing im­mi­grant par­ents, went through McMaster Univer­sity and Os­good Hall Law School to­gether.

Af­ter ar­ti­cling sep­a­rately for high-pro­file Hamil­ton lawyers — Borkovich for the late John Mun­roe and late Jack Pelech, and Stayshyn for the late John Agro — the two friends be­came law part­ners, open­ing their prac­tice in Hamil­ton in 1963.

In 1982, when Borkovich joined the bench 10 years af­ter Stayshyn, they be­came part of the so-called “Slavic bench” — a joke among four old friends — Stayshyn, Borkovich, Eu­gene Fedak and Wil­liam Festeryga — who were the sons of work­ing-class Euro­pean im­mi­grants. Three had Ukrainian her­itage and Borkovich was of Ser­bian de­cent.

Stayshyn said Borkovich was an ex­cel­lent lawyer who was re­spected by his clients and later a great judge who was “very clever and hard-work­ing.”

Long­time city lawyer Roger Ya­chetti knew Borkovich for more than 50 years and says he will be sorely missed. “He ex­hib­ited the same out­stand­ing qual­i­ties as a per­son, as a lawyer, and as a judge — sin­cer­ity and forthright­ness,” Ya­chetti said. “As a judge, he pos­sessed and uti­lized what is, in my opin­ion, the sin­gle most im­por­tant ju­di­cial trait: com­mon sense.”

Hamil­ton Crim­i­nal Lawyers’ As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Jaime Stephen­son said Borkovich was a true be­liever in the jury sys­tem.

“He was firm, but also kind and never de­val­ued any par­tic­i­pant in the ju­di­cial sys­tem, par­tic­u­larly an ac­cused,” she said.

He “will be truly missed as a per­son who al­ways had time to ed­u­cate and as­sist a young lawyer …” Stephen­son added.

Lawyer Jeff Man­ishen, who ap­peared be­fore Borkovich in sev­eral tri­als, said he was di­rect to the point and ap­plied the law in a thought­ful and im­par­tial way.

“He had a deep-seated sense of the im­por­tance of an ac­cused per­son be­ing treated fairly,” he said, adding it didn’t mean you got an easy ride. “But he had a com­pletely hon­est and real com­mit­ment to the trial process.”

Man­ishen, who also got to know Borkovich so­cially, says, “He was a very gen­uine guy. That’s the word I’d use the most.”

As­gar Manek, who has prac­tised crim­i­nal law in Hamil­ton since 1976, called Borkovich’s death a sad day.

“I found him very charm­ing, very po­lite and very knowl­edge­able. If he met you on the street, he’d come up and shake your hand and even hug you. That, to me, meant he was very hum­ble.”

Borkovich was born in Oakville but grew up in east Hamil­ton, where he at­tended Delta High school. Be­sides the law, he also had a great pas­sion for sports and was a good base­ball and bas­ket­ball player, says Stayshyn.

Borkovich was a great sports fan, too, he added, re­mem­ber­ing how in law school, they bought $2 tick­ets to watch a hockey game from be­hind the seats at Maple Leaf Gar­dens.

Borkovich was also a reg­u­lar in the stands at McMaster Ma­rauder foot­ball and bas­ket­ball games.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Re­tired Su­pe­rior Court Jus­tice Nick Borkovich was also a sports fan who was a reg­u­lar at McMaster foot­ball and bas­ket­ball games.

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