An article that recently appeared in the Sarnia Observer, hits home so much that we decided to post it here in its entirety and also provide a link to the original article.
Neil Bowen Sarnia Observer posted August 31 2018.
Fewer workers at the Sarnia courthouse could lead to the dropping of criminal charges as courts are unable to keep pace with the workload, according to a memo by a local judge.
A copy of the memo to local lawyers from Justice Mark Hornblower, the local administrative judge for provincial courts, was obtained by the Observer.
Failure to properly staff courts leads to the possibility of courtrooms closing resulting in a significant unfairness to all justice system participants and ultimately leading to the staying of charges, stated the memo.
“The judge is right on,” said Smokey Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union that represents court’s clerical staff.
Such shortages have been an issue across the province since 2016 when vacancies took 12 to 18 months to fill. At that time the Liberal government required Treasury Board approval of hiring, said Thomas.
Thomas continues to seek meetings with cabinet ministers to discuss what he described as a crisis in the justice system citing the phrase, justice delayed is justice denied.
In the near future Thomas intends to reach out to all groups representing workers in the justice system with the intent of forming an united front.
In the memo Hornblower states few of the local vacancies created by retirement or resignation of court staff have been filled resulting in mandated services not being completed in a timely manner. Wait times for filing documents has increased to two hours on many days. Family court orders pile up and go unsigned for weeks.
The situation could delay production of sentencing orders in criminal courts. After a person is sentenced the orders to be signed by the judge are prepared in the court office His discussions with local and regional administrators has found there is no short-term solution. The hiring and training of staff could take six months to a year. With the provincial government’s hiring freeze the impact on that long-term solution is unclear, states Hornblower’s memo.
In order to keep courts running Hornblower said courtroom judges will assume the role of courtroom clerk if staff is unavailable due to other duties “We are considering other options to ensure the courts remain open,” stated Hornblower’s memo.
A copy of the memo was forwarded by the Observer to Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey.
On Friday Bailey said he would be following up on the issue and a copy of Horblower’s memo was forwarded to Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney.
“I appreciate the importance of the work done in Sarnia courts and across the province,” said Bailey.
End of article.
So, what does this mean and what should you do?
- Some people are thinking they can save time/money by sending the documents by courier or mail to the courts on matters that are allowed by the rules and can be done this way. This is backfiring many times, as this article points out how orders remained unsigned for weeks. We can add in here as well the documents that go “missing in action”. Also with a mail strike coming up, you should never mail documents to the courts especially now.
- If you are sending us or your own staff, PLEASE make sure that you have allowed sufficient time, and are not waiting till the last minute to do so.
- Always call ahead to the court in question if it is not in your jurisdiction, as even neighbouring courts have different ways of doing things and your file may be rejected.
- We are starting to see more files being rejected because of simple binding mistakes, or not being bound at all, if in doubt call the court directly. If your file is rejected and needs to be corrected, our servers do not have magic wands with them, nor do we carry boxes of binding materials, different colour backing pages, etc…
- Be prepared to have us or your staff wait for hours at times to complete your file, this is simply no longer a “Show up and drop your documents on the desk” situation, but rather a “Show up with your favourite magazine” type of event.
- At all times be polite, civil and respectful of court staff and our staff as well, because remember when your file has a problem, and its rejected, who’s fault do you really think it is….