Quebec waiting on feds to appoint Superior Court justices to help curb delay

Quebec waiting on feds to appoint Superior Court justices to help curb delay

Quebec Justice Minister Stephanie Vallee is calling on the federal government to appoint 10 new Superior Court justices in the province in short order.

Vallee said measures taken by the province to curb delays in the justice system are progressing as she announced new projects Tuesday designed to address the case crunch.

But Vallee said the shortage of Superior Court justices is still creating problems in light of a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that set stringent time limits on cases getting to trial.

Known as the Jordan ruling, it states that legal proceedings can’t exceed 18 months in provincial court and 30 months in Superior Court.

Vallee announced she will add up 20 new legal aid lawyers and more than two dozen support staff to that office.

The province will also try to lessen the burden by a new handling of certain minor infractions through an 18-month pilot project in some courthouses. Under the plan, remedies such as community service would be used instead of incarceration.

In December, Quebec announced it was investing an additional $175 million over four years in the clogged system to recruit new judges, prosecutors and other staff.

In Quebec alone, there were 895 Jordan-related requests for a stay of proceedings filed as of late May.

Speaking to reporters at the courthouse in Quebec City on Tuesday, Vallee said the province has added nearly 450 new justice system support staff and is moving forward on hiring new Quebec court judges and opening new courtrooms.

But the lack of Superior Court justices is problematic and she said 10 additional appointments would considerably cut the number of outstanding cases.

“It would represent about 35 trials before a jury that would have been completed or on the way to being completed,” Vallee said. “So every day that passes counts.”

A spokesman for federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said that there are only three vacancies on the Superior Courts in Quebec and those will be filled in short order.

“We have been working closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts to address the implications of the Jordan decision,” David Taylor said in a statement to The Canadian Press. “As we have said all along there is no one silver bullet to address court delays. Judicial appointments are one piece of a complicated puzzle.”

Taylor said Quebec is seeking additional positions and that request is going through a federal-provincial verification process.

“The federal government cannot name 10 judges in Quebec,” Taylor said. “The additional positions Quebec is seeking do not yet exist.”

The Canadian Press

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