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Jolin-Barrette blames judges for the explosion in the number of procedural judgments

Photo: Francis Vachon Archives The Canadian Press “Today we are seeing one of the results of the change in the ratio of judges of the Court of Quebec,” laments Simon Jolin-Barrette.

The number of “Jordan judgments” granted due to excessively long legal delays has exploded over the past year, and this increase can be explained by the “unilateral” decision of the Court of Quebec to reduce the time its judges spend in the courtroom, according to the Minister of Justice.

“We are experiencing today one of the results of the change in the ratio of judges of the Court of Quebec,” lamented Simon Jolin-Barrette during the study of his ministry's appropriations, an annual accountability exercise which has started Tuesday at the National Assembly.

In 2023-2024, 109 stays of proceedings for unreasonable delays were granted by judges at the request of the defense. These decisions allowed 91 accused to escape a trial, confirmed the minister in response to questions from independent MP Marie-Claude Nichols. The latter noted with astonishment that 62 of the 109 judgments had been pronounced in the judicial district of Saint-François (Sherbrooke).

In 2022-2023, 17 “Jordan decisions” were counted by the Ministry of Justice. In 2021-2022, this number was 13. The “Jordan decisions” arise from a decision of the same name by the Supreme Court, which in 2016 set the maximum length of trials in provincial and superior courts at 18 and 30 months , respectively.

In his discussions with PQ MP Pascal Paradis, Minister Jolin-Barrette also mentioned 238 cases abandoned by the prosecution, nolle prosequi, due to judicial delays in criminal matters. “That’s 199 accused,” he added. This type of decision, taken by the prosecution “reluctantly”, often occurs “because of the lack of availability of the Court”, observed the minister. In comparison, 12 abandonments were recorded in 2020-2021, recalled Mr. Paradis.

To explain the “Jordan rulings” like the nolle prosequi, Mr. Jolin-Barrette pointed to a “unilateral” decision by the former chief judge of the Court of Quebec, Lucie Rondeau. The justice system was “already scarred by the pandemic, and the Court’s decision was to say: ‘The rest of us are implementing a new ratio,’” he complained. “We come in and say, “The rest of us are closing courtrooms.” » He affirmed that Quebec was “in the crunch” of the stays of proceedings, but that there “still remained cases at risk”.

A decision that made “no sense”

In 2022, Judge Rondeau decided to reduce the time that judges spend in court, reducing it from two days out of three to one day out of two. Its decision had alerted the Ministry of Justice to the delays it was likely to cause. She had also caused dissension within the judiciary, then had taken herself to court. After mediation, the minister and the judge eventually reached a compromise, but the dispute obviously left its mark.

The Court’s decision made “no sense,” Mr. Jolin-Barrette said again on Tuesday. “We are doing everything to avoid any stay of proceedings. […] The Ministry of Justice has done its job, but all stakeholders have a responsibility. Yes, there are resources that must be given, we have given them. […] But our system must not be stuck in the 1990s. Phrases like “that’s not how it works in the justice system”, I can’t hear them anymore,” he said. launched.

In front of him, Deputy Paradis criticized him for “washing his hands” and taking “no responsibility” in the matter of legal delays. Stung, the CAQ elected official said he had tackled the issue “from day 1”. “We don’t take this lightly,” he said.

Requested by Le Devoir for this article, Lucie Demers, executive assistant to the current chief judge of the Court of Quebec, declared that the The organization “will not comment on the minister's comments, considering in particular the duty of reserve imposed on judges and the principle of separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116