William Osgoode

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William Osgoode
William Osgoode.png
Chief Justice of Upper Canada
In office
1792–1794
Preceded by new title
Succeeded by John Elmsley
Chief Justice of Lower Canada
In office
1794–1801
Preceded by William Smith
Succeeded by Henry Allcock
Personal details
Born March 1754
London, England
Died January 17, 1824(1824-01-17) (aged 69)
London, England

William Osgoode (March 1754 – January 17, 1824) was the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada (now known Ontario, Canada).

He was born William Osgood in London, England, in 1754 to William Osgood. He attended Christ Church, Oxford and was called to the bar in 1779. On December 31, 1791, he was appointed first Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Although he mainly sought the opinions of lawyers from England, Osgoode attempted to adapt the English civil law of the time to fit the needs of a developing colony. For example, he allowed justices of the peace to perform marriages when Anglican priests were not readily available. Osgoode's Judicature Act of 1794 established a system of district courts and a superior provincial court. During his term, legislation was also introduced to abolish slavery. Osgoode also served as a member of John Graves Simcoe's Executive Council for Upper Canada.

In 1794, he became Chief Justice of Lower Canada. Osgoode came into conflict with Governor Robert Prescott over an attempt to sort out the issue of land grants in the region. When Prescott was recalled, he came into conflict with Prescott's successor, Lieutenant Governor Robert Shore Milnes. In 1801, Osgoode resigned and returned to London. He became a member of the Royal Commission on the Courts of Law and help form what eventually led to the Uniformity of Process Act in 1832. Unmarried, Osgoode died in London in 1824 and is buried in St. Mary's Church, Harrow-on-the-Hill.

Osgoode Hall, the location of the Ontario Court of Appeal and the headquarters of the Law Society of Upper Canada, was named after him, as was Osgoode Hall Law School. In addition, the former Osgoode Township in Ontario also bears his name.

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