The Legault government and the Quebec Court of Justice begin talks in hopes of resolving their dispute over controversial reform of judges’ work schedules. Talks have already begun, led by a former judge and former deputy minister who has been appointed moderator.
Posted at 12:02 p.m
The Minister of Justice, Simon Jolin-Barrette, and the Chief Justice of the Quebec Court, Lucie Rondeau, “have jointly appointed Mr Jacques Chamberland as facilitator to accompany them in the search for common solutions following the reorganization of the work of the judges. Criminal and Criminal Cases Session,” the minister and the Quebec court said on Friday.
The brief statement said that “talks began in January 2023.” The talks remain confidential, it said.
“In all decisions we make, the interests of victims and citizens take precedence. The judicial system belongs primarily to them. Quebecers are entitled to accessible, adequate and speedy services. We are pleased to be able to count on Mr Chamberland’s expertise in finding common solutions,” commented Minister Jolin-Barrette’s office.
Former judge Jacques Chamberland is publicly known for chairing the 2017 Commission of Inquiry into the Protection of Confidentiality of Journalistic Sources set up in the aftermath of the “Lagacé Affair”.
In addition to his 28 years at the bank, Jacques Chamberland served as Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of Quebec from 1988 to 1993. A unique experience that should allow him to fully understand the grievances of both camps.
This is an important step forward in this conflict as the rag between Quebec and Chief Justice Rondeau has been burning for months. La Presse last autumn published the many letters exchanged between Minister Jolin-Barrette and Chief Justice Rondeau since the reorganization project was announced in December 2021.
Minister Jolin-Barrette even approached the Quebec Court of Appeals last summer to have the chief justice’s “unilateral” reform overturned. Quebec fears this decision will result in an “avalanche” of dismissals due to undue delays.
Essentially, this reorganization allows the judges of the Québec Court of Criminal and Criminal Division to sit in the courtroom less often to give them more time to deliberate. The Chief Justice justifies this need because of the complexity of the law and the many written decisions to be made.
Since September 2022, the judges have been sitting in the jury in a ratio of 1/1 of one day for one day of deliberation, while they sat for two days for one day of deliberation. In practice, this change results in a loss of more than 4,500 listening days. Chief Judge Rondeau is asking for compensation for 41 new judges, but Quebec refuses.
Meanwhile, delays in courthouses continue, partly due to the Rondeau reform, but also due to severe court staff shortages. According to forecasts by the Ministry of Justice, about 50,000 criminal cases will exceed Jordan’s 18-month limit next August. The ministry estimates that around 9,000 of these cases will be endangered precisely because of the change in the judges’ plan.
Note that Lucie Rondeau was appointed Chief Justice in October 2016 for a non-renewable seven-year term.