There is a first time for everything, but for Norma Wade-Miller, these firsts are more impressive than most. Wade-Miller made Bermuda history when she broke through the barrier of the previously male domain of the Judiciary of Bermuda.
She was the first female to be appointed as a substantive Magistrate in Bermuda. She was the first female to be appointed as a High Court Judge. And she was the first female to sit as Acting Chief Justice. Not only was she appointed to positions that had never been held by women in Bermuda, she moved up through the judicial system more quickly than is traditional.
Wade-Miller graduated from Marygrove College in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Philosophy. She also has a master’s degree in management and human resources. She says that her experiences at Marygrove taught her to see a job through.
“Coming from a different background than most of the girls could have been frustrating, but it just served as a catalyst to help me achieve my goals. I didn’t give up,” she said.
In 1976 she read law at the Council of Legal Education in England and became a member of Lincoln’s Inn in London, England. She was called to the English Bar in 1976 and served as deputy clerk of the courts where she was responsible for criminal prosecution and civil proceedings in Magistrate’s Court, Maypen, Clarendon, Jamaica.
She also served as acting clerk to the Gun Court, a division of the High Court of Jamaica with responsibility for criminal proceedings. In 1977, she was called to the Bermuda Bar. From 1977 to 1981 she was in general, private practice at the Bermuda Bar with LM Browne Chambers.
In recognition of her general contributions, Wade-Miller was inducted into the Company of Honorable Fellows by the Bermuda College where she served as a part-time lecturer in law. This is the highest honor that the Bermuda College awards to individuals who have made significant contributions to Bermuda.
Working to improve her profession, Wade-Miller was a member of the Tumin Commission, Criminal Justice Review Team. The committee reviewed the criminal justice system in Bermuda and made recommendations for improvements, many of which are being implemented today.
Always on the cutting edge, Wade-Miller is a member of the Alternatives to Incarceration (ATI) Steering Committee and chairman of the Judicial Department Task Force. The goal of the ATI initiative is to rehabilitate and motivate offenders to accept responsibility, and to prevent the cycle of addiction and recidivism. The ATI is attempting to find a cohesive national framework that will achieve these goals.
According to Wade-Miller, two of the things that gave her the most personal satisfaction go back to her student days: being president of the Catholic Youth Organization and being a resident adviser at Marygrove College. She is also proud of serving as the first fundraising chairperson and president of Project 100, a Bermuda organization that provides financial and emotional support for the mentally challenged. Project 100 is currently trying to purchase several homes in an effort to relocate as many mentally challenged individuals as possible. She also served as chairperson of the Jamaica Disaster Fund.
“She is a devoted wife and a loving mother who has provided, by her example, a path for others to follow,” said Yusef Morant Wade, who nominated Wade-Miller.
“What you can do today, don’t leave until tomorrow,” said Wade-Miller. “Always strive for self-improvement and the improvement of fellow human beings around you.”