Judge Selwyn Romilly is by all accounts a trailblazer. "I went to the Allard School of Law in the '60s, a time of white, male, Anglo Saxon dominance in this Country." Until his brother joined him in law school two years later, Judge Romilly was the only student of African descent in the Faculty. When he was appointed to the provincial court in 1974, Judge Romilly became the first person of African descent appointed to any court in BC. Then he was elevated to the British Columbia Supreme Court in 1995 where he was, again, the first person of African descent named to such a role.
Judge Romilly's success comes, in part, from the great pressure that he put on himself as a result of these social realities. "In law school there was intense pressure on me to succeed. I always felt that I did not have to be good, I had to do better".
To "do better" Judge Romilly has found enduring inspiration in the motto: "Discipline, Production and Tolerance". The motto is that of his native country, Trinidad & Tobago. As a lawyer and as a judge, these three qualities have been extremely important. His discipline allowed him to deal with the heavy workload of being one of only two lawyers in a 200-mile radius when he began practicing in Smithers, BC. His production is evident in the fact that, as a judge, he has managed to produce over 720 judgments in all areas of the law. As for tolerance, Judge Romilly sees that as a crucial aspect of his role as a judge.
Judge Romilly has also been inspired by his family. He credits his father for inspiring him to go to law school in the first place, and was telling people about his legal career plans by the time he was four years old. His wife, Lorna Plett, gave Judge Romilly a reason to stay in BC and pursue law rather than pursue banking in Trinidad & Tobago as he had originally planned.
Family not only inspired Judge Romilly to succeed, but also to use his success to help others. Remembering how grateful he was to those who mentored him when he was a young lawyer, Judge Romilly has made sure to give up some of his time to mentor young lawyers now. "Teaching is in my blood", he says. His father, uncle, and great uncle were all school principals.