It is with great sadness that we advise that Ottawa has lost one of its titans of the legal profession. John Nelligan passed away January 7, 2019 at age 97.

John Patrick Nelligan was born in Hamilton Ontario. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto where he met his future wife Marion, then served overseas in the Second World War. Upon his return, he became a Barrister at Law (with Honours) from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1949. Mr. Nelligan practised in Toronto until 1955 when he moved to Ottawa. In 1963, he opened his own law office and in 1969, he and Denis Power established the firm of Nelligan Power (now Nelligan O’Brien Payne). He was considered to be a masterful and consummate advocate. During his career, he was counsel on numerous high-profile cases and the media came to refer to him as “Ottawa’s Perry Mason”. He was made Queen’s Counsel in 1972. He celebrated 50 years at the Bar in 2000 but still practised for many years after that.

He was a past President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. He was the first President of The Advocates’ Society who practised outside Toronto. He was a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Among the many honours John Nelligan received, he was the recipient of:

  • The Law Society Medal
  • The Advocate’s Society Medal
  • The Carleton Medal
  • The Laidlaw Medal for Excellence in Advocacy
  • Award of Merit from B’nai Brith of Canada
  • Doctorate of Laws, University of Ottawa – Common Law

He was predeceased by his wife Marion and their son Jack. He is survived by their daughters Peggy and Kathleen and their children.


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