Postcard depicting the Edmonton courthouse, 1916. The Edmonton courthouse was completed in 1912 and demolished in 1972. Law Society of Alberta fonds.
Photo No. 5-G-71
Courthouses are the locale for many of society's sordid and scandalous stories, and Alberta's early courthouses were no exception. But the intrigue did not always arise from the trial or the accused criminal; sometimes the best stories came from the antics of the Justices themselves. One such Justice was Thomas Mitchell Tweedie, a popular and respected judge whose reputation survived a brush with scandal. In 1932, Tweedie held a noon-hour divorce court for Oran McPherson, the provincial minister of Public Works, in the judge's library of the Edmonton Courthouse. This unusual arrangement was a favour to McPherson, who wanted his divorce expedited and kept away from public scrutiny. When McPherson's wife challenged the divorce, the matter ended up in front of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
The McPherson affair had the appearance of wife-swapping, and it scandalized the United Farmers of Alberta government even before Premier John Brownlee's alleged seduction of his housekeeper sealed the government's doom. For years after, Tweedie's colleagues ribbed him over his involvement, and after his death the judge's library in Edmonton was cheekily dubbed the Tom Tweedie Memorial Library.