Funding, legislation will help make justice system more efficient: Minister

Staff ~ The Telegram
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Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy Telegram photo

Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy released a report this morning that provides recommendations aimed at streamlining the operations of the criminal justice system - from the time of arrest to adjudication - in the province.
Recommendations cover much of the criminal process, including decreasing the amount of time between arrest and appearance in court, timely release of information from the Crown Attorneys' Office, reduction of delays throughout the court process by all involved and improved case management at provincial court by adopting the Case Assignment and Retrieval System.
The report states that the current average length of a criminal proceeding is about one year but could be reduced to three or four months along with a reduction in remand time served by accused.
In support of these recommendations, funding will be provided in Budget 2008, and amendments to the Provincial Court Act, 1991 and the Legal Aid Act will be tabled during the spring session of the House of Assembly.
"When I established this task force in late 2007, I asked its members to provide recommendations on how the processes of criminal justice in our province could be made more efficient, and thus, fair to all involved," Kennedy said.
"Delayed court proceedings lead to stress upon the victims of crime and the justice system. Those who have been victimized by crime, as well as the innocent, should not have to face prolonged distress. I am pleased with the recommendations of the task force which will help decrease the frequency of such situations and I assure its members and the public I will take all necessary steps to make the recommendations which fall within my authority a reality."
Budget 2008 will provide an additional $400,000 to the Legal Aid Commission to allow choice of counsel for those facing the charges of murder and manslaughter.
"Legal Aid is a critical component of our justice system and those who avail of its services should be allowed counsel of their choice in these specific circumstances," Kennedy said. "In recognition of this, our government is increasing funding to Legal Aid and will also table the required legislative change to the Legal Aid Act. This initiative should prevent delay in court proceedings caused by repeated requests from accused individuals to change appointed counsel."
While the task force has made recommendations to improve operations of the provincial court, many initiatives have already been undertaken.
Video conferencing is being employed with increasing regularity as almost all courts in Newfoundland and Labrador have this technology. As a result of the Lamer Inquiry, significant changes have been made with respect to the processes of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and the Crown Attorneys' Office for dealing with criminal matters.
The RNC is moving forward with electronic disclosure while the Crown Attorneys' Office is restructuring so that paralegals and legal assistants prepare disclosure packages.
Budget 2008 also includes funding for an intake officer for the Legal Aid Commission, a trial co-ordinator for provincial court, and a paralegal for the Crown Attorneys' Office, as recommended in the report, which will result in an annualized investment of $138,000.
Another recommendation of the report is the use of per diem judges. Sometimes, a case comes to resolution just prior to a scheduled court time and unused courtrooms result.
In these situations, a per diem judge will be able to proceed in the vacant courtroom with another trial on the court docket. To support this recommendation, Budget 2008 will include $177,100 to allow retired judges to act as per diem judges, when required, for provincial court in St. John's.
As well, an amendment to the Provincial Court Act, 1991 will be brought to the House of Assembly this session to allow for per diem judges in Newfoundland and Labrador. Having retired judges ready to proceed with other cases will ensure that vacant courtrooms are kept to a minimum and backlogs do not occur.
More coverage in Thursday's Telegram.

Organizations: Case Assignment and Retrieval System, Legal Aid Commission

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's

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Recent comments

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    Just so everyone knows, chapter 26, verse 4 of Proverbs reads as follows:

    'Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.'

    The question is: who's the fool?

    Wayne Pittman

  • Bob
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    I thought double-dipping was no permitted in the provincial government. If that is true how can retired judges be permitted to adjudicate cases.

  • Hiram
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    From pages 13-14 of the report, as found on the Department of Justice Website, comes this gem:
    Empty court rooms and idle (underutilized) judges are a tremendous waste of valuable resources. Our judges are the most highly valued personnel in the entire criminal justice system. The regular salary of a Provincial Court Judge is $177,063 which includes a bonus of 3.8% for the discharge of duties of Justices of the Peace carried on outside normal work hours. The current system, too often, ties a judges hands and makes it impossible for him or her to continue to hear cases when a trial which has been scheduled months before, fails to proceed. This is especially troubling when there are hundreds of cases on the docket waiting to be heard. Because rescheduling a trial or preliminary inquiry can often only be done on a minimum of several weeks notice, a collapsed case,which was scheduled to consume several days of court time, leaves a vacancy in the court calendar which can never be filled.

    So, if a case doesn't proceed as scheduled, the Judge is idle. How does having standby retired Judges available, on a per diem pension booster, improve the situation ?

    Obviously, it doesn't.

    What is really going on here is that Jerome and Danny want to encourage some of the old guard to retire, on the promise that they will be invited back to double breast, and top up their pensions. Given the money allotted, 177,000, and given the days worked per Judge according to the report, the per diem retired Judges will get a thousand bucks a day when called back in, while simultaneously collecting their pensions.

    Can you say double breasting ?

    And, to ice the cake, Danny and Jerome will then be able to appoint their own choices to replace the recently departed.

    Not that they would use politics to appoint to the Bench a loyal party member who lost his bid for election as a Tory, and then amend the legislation to allow the guy, then sixty, to stay on the job until he is seventy, so that he might have a pension.

    But that's a story from the West coast. And today's politicians mucking with the Courts story is from the Capital city.

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Gary: If you made some inquiries of your own, and did some of your own investigative research, you'd find out a few things about secret societies that you may very well find alarming, including how pervasive they are within the 'power structure' in this province, and many other jurisdictions, as well.

    And it wasn't for nothing that the British Home Affairs Committee made its recommendations, that have since become law in Britain.

    Why don't you do some research into the British public inquiry on the internet and let me (and everyone else) know what you think.

    Here's a link to an informative article headed up:'New judges must declare masonic membership' (there are many other articles out there on the British affair).

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/politics/57381.stm

    And here's another couple of quotes from Jack Straw:

    Membership of secret societies such as freemasonry can raise suspicions of a lack of impartiality or objectivity. It is therefore important the public know the facts.

    I think it is the case that the freemasons said they are not a secret society but a society with secrets.

    I think it is widely accepted that one secret they should not be keeping is who their members are in the criminal justice system.

    Get back to me on it.

    Wayne Pittman

  • Wayne
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    In addition to the above recommendations, I think that it would also be wise to enact legislation requiring all members of the criminal justice system - including crown prosecutors, police, judges, and prison staff - to register their membership in any secret society, such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons, in a publicly available registry, as they do now in Britain, as a result of an mid-1990s public inquiry that the British Home Affairs Committee conducted into the influence of Freemasonry in the Judiciary and the Police in Britain.

    And I think, as well, that all politicans and senior civil servants should also be required to do the same.

    I also fully agree with the following comment by British Home Affairs Secretary Jack Straw: 'Nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society.'

    The criminal justice system, indeed the entire justice system generally in this province, including the legal profession, is rife with members of secret societies such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons. And it is high time that they were required to list their membership in those secret societies in a public registry.

    Wayne Pittman

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    Overall, I think that Mr. Kennedy is definatly on the right track with his reforms. However, I also see a section where the crook is being put before the victims for serious crimes. If the Legal Aid system is to work properly, lawyers have to be able to be assigned on a rotation basis - Lawyer A then b then c etc. The money that is being used to have accused criminals choose their own lawyer could easily hire another 4 or 5 lawyers.

  • Hiram
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    While even the truly paranoid CAN have real enemies, hopefully Wayne does not really believe that a Judge who is a mason will treat masons and non-masons differently, or that suspects might be treated differently by the police depending on whether they might or might not be Knights of Columbus.
    Leaving Wayne's mental health aside, the REAL question has to be the following:
    If the Court rooms are now only being used forty percent of the time, how will adding more Judges to the mix make things more efficient ?
    Put another way, and leaving aside the whole double breasting of retired Judges that this plan will not only allow, but encourage, Why aren't the current number of Judges simply being told to spend more time in their respective courtrooms?
    Come on Jerome, (hmmm, Grand Knight, is it ?), how does allowing the old and busted to come back to work part time, and beef up their pensions in the process, make the system work better?

  • Gary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    Thank you for the offer, Wayne. You'll find my considered reply at chapter 26, verse 4 of the Book of Proverbs. Good luck with your crusade.

  • Gary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Wayne Pittman.


    The criminal justice system, indeed the entire justice system generally in this province, including the legal profession, is rife with members of secret societies such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons.

    This is a late April Fools joke, isn't it? You must be kidding.


    And, by the way, what nefarious purpose do these secret societies have in mind?

  • Brad
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Makes good sense to me. Keep up the good work, Jerome!

    NL has had some good people heading up Justice over the past 4+ years, like Kennedy and Tom Marshall. Who did the Liberals have? Wasn't it Paul D and Kelvin Parsons for the most part...very sad indeed.

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    Just so everyone knows, chapter 26, verse 4 of Proverbs reads as follows:

    'Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.'

    The question is: who's the fool?

    Wayne Pittman

  • Bob
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    I thought double-dipping was no permitted in the provincial government. If that is true how can retired judges be permitted to adjudicate cases.

  • Hiram
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    From pages 13-14 of the report, as found on the Department of Justice Website, comes this gem:
    Empty court rooms and idle (underutilized) judges are a tremendous waste of valuable resources. Our judges are the most highly valued personnel in the entire criminal justice system. The regular salary of a Provincial Court Judge is $177,063 which includes a bonus of 3.8% for the discharge of duties of Justices of the Peace carried on outside normal work hours. The current system, too often, ties a judges hands and makes it impossible for him or her to continue to hear cases when a trial which has been scheduled months before, fails to proceed. This is especially troubling when there are hundreds of cases on the docket waiting to be heard. Because rescheduling a trial or preliminary inquiry can often only be done on a minimum of several weeks notice, a collapsed case,which was scheduled to consume several days of court time, leaves a vacancy in the court calendar which can never be filled.

    So, if a case doesn't proceed as scheduled, the Judge is idle. How does having standby retired Judges available, on a per diem pension booster, improve the situation ?

    Obviously, it doesn't.

    What is really going on here is that Jerome and Danny want to encourage some of the old guard to retire, on the promise that they will be invited back to double breast, and top up their pensions. Given the money allotted, 177,000, and given the days worked per Judge according to the report, the per diem retired Judges will get a thousand bucks a day when called back in, while simultaneously collecting their pensions.

    Can you say double breasting ?

    And, to ice the cake, Danny and Jerome will then be able to appoint their own choices to replace the recently departed.

    Not that they would use politics to appoint to the Bench a loyal party member who lost his bid for election as a Tory, and then amend the legislation to allow the guy, then sixty, to stay on the job until he is seventy, so that he might have a pension.

    But that's a story from the West coast. And today's politicians mucking with the Courts story is from the Capital city.

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:12

    Gary: If you made some inquiries of your own, and did some of your own investigative research, you'd find out a few things about secret societies that you may very well find alarming, including how pervasive they are within the 'power structure' in this province, and many other jurisdictions, as well.

    And it wasn't for nothing that the British Home Affairs Committee made its recommendations, that have since become law in Britain.

    Why don't you do some research into the British public inquiry on the internet and let me (and everyone else) know what you think.

    Here's a link to an informative article headed up:'New judges must declare masonic membership' (there are many other articles out there on the British affair).

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/politics/57381.stm

    And here's another couple of quotes from Jack Straw:

    Membership of secret societies such as freemasonry can raise suspicions of a lack of impartiality or objectivity. It is therefore important the public know the facts.

    I think it is the case that the freemasons said they are not a secret society but a society with secrets.

    I think it is widely accepted that one secret they should not be keeping is who their members are in the criminal justice system.

    Get back to me on it.

    Wayne Pittman

  • Wayne
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    In addition to the above recommendations, I think that it would also be wise to enact legislation requiring all members of the criminal justice system - including crown prosecutors, police, judges, and prison staff - to register their membership in any secret society, such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons, in a publicly available registry, as they do now in Britain, as a result of an mid-1990s public inquiry that the British Home Affairs Committee conducted into the influence of Freemasonry in the Judiciary and the Police in Britain.

    And I think, as well, that all politicans and senior civil servants should also be required to do the same.

    I also fully agree with the following comment by British Home Affairs Secretary Jack Straw: 'Nothing so much undermines public confidence in public institutions as the knowledge that some public servants are members of a secret society.'

    The criminal justice system, indeed the entire justice system generally in this province, including the legal profession, is rife with members of secret societies such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons. And it is high time that they were required to list their membership in those secret societies in a public registry.

    Wayne Pittman

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    Overall, I think that Mr. Kennedy is definatly on the right track with his reforms. However, I also see a section where the crook is being put before the victims for serious crimes. If the Legal Aid system is to work properly, lawyers have to be able to be assigned on a rotation basis - Lawyer A then b then c etc. The money that is being used to have accused criminals choose their own lawyer could easily hire another 4 or 5 lawyers.

  • Hiram
    July 01, 2010 - 20:04

    While even the truly paranoid CAN have real enemies, hopefully Wayne does not really believe that a Judge who is a mason will treat masons and non-masons differently, or that suspects might be treated differently by the police depending on whether they might or might not be Knights of Columbus.
    Leaving Wayne's mental health aside, the REAL question has to be the following:
    If the Court rooms are now only being used forty percent of the time, how will adding more Judges to the mix make things more efficient ?
    Put another way, and leaving aside the whole double breasting of retired Judges that this plan will not only allow, but encourage, Why aren't the current number of Judges simply being told to spend more time in their respective courtrooms?
    Come on Jerome, (hmmm, Grand Knight, is it ?), how does allowing the old and busted to come back to work part time, and beef up their pensions in the process, make the system work better?

  • Gary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:55

    Thank you for the offer, Wayne. You'll find my considered reply at chapter 26, verse 4 of the Book of Proverbs. Good luck with your crusade.

  • Gary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Wayne Pittman.


    The criminal justice system, indeed the entire justice system generally in this province, including the legal profession, is rife with members of secret societies such as the Knights of Columbus and the Masons.

    This is a late April Fools joke, isn't it? You must be kidding.


    And, by the way, what nefarious purpose do these secret societies have in mind?

  • Brad
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Makes good sense to me. Keep up the good work, Jerome!

    NL has had some good people heading up Justice over the past 4+ years, like Kennedy and Tom Marshall. Who did the Liberals have? Wasn't it Paul D and Kelvin Parsons for the most part...very sad indeed.