Tag: Mr. Justice Bauman

An Underfunded Judiciary Costs You a Great Deal

The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s Annual Report was released last week.  Consistent with recent comments,  Chief Justice Bauman noted that system underfunding continues to be a problem highlighting that “Financial constraints have reduced the number of court clerks, registry staff and sheriffs available to operate the justice system.  This affects the level of service that the public requires and has led to delays in processing court orders, scheduling hearings and conducting hearings“.
So why does any of this matter?  The short answer is that system underfunding imposes a high cost on those that need access to justice.  If you have a civil legal matter that needs resolving, be it a contract dispute, a personal injury claim, or a family law matter, that person could be you.
At the conclusion of the annual report some raw statistics are laid out.  Focusing on the Court Registry I most often access (Victoria) the data shows that in 2011 86 trials were heard.  A further 7 trials were ‘bumped’ (meaning adjounred because the system could not accomodate the hearings).
In the most basic terms this means 8% of people who tried to have their day in court in the Victoria BC Supreme Court Registry in 2011 had their cases ‘bumped’.  Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.  These delays come with real costs, both financial and emotional, for the litigants involved.  Those affected must shoulder the costs of preparing for trial not once but twice.   This is an unfair burden for individual litigants to bear.  Surely we as a Province can do better than this.
Not limiting judicial criticism to the annual report, The Chief Justices of BC’s Courts have also provided an interview to CBC’s Ian Hanomansing addressing, amongst other topics, the costs of justice system and legal aid underfunding.  The below video is worth reviewing in full for their comments:

Chief Justice Bauman Warns BC's Judicial System is "threatened, if not in peril" Due to Underfunding


In a speech given at a Canadian Bar Association BC Branch conference earlier this week Robert Bauman, the Chief Justice of the BC Supreme Court warned that government underfunding has caused a “gradual, insidious process of incremental damage” which has threatened BC’s Court system.
You can click here for a link to the full text of the speech.

Woodlands Survivor Class Action Application Deadline Extended to September 2012

Earlier this year the BC Supreme Court refused to approve a class action settlement involving historic sexual abuse claims where the proposed settlement would impose a limitation period for class members where one would not otherwise exist.  Further reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the balancing act of sexual abuse class action settlements and imposed limitation periods.
This week’s case (Richard v. British Columbia) involved the Woodlands school class action settlement which was initially approved on July 7, 2010.  One of the terms of the settlement required class members to advance their claims by September 19, 2011.  The deadline came and went and due to the complexity of the claims only a handful met the filing deadline.  An application was brought to extend this deadline.  Such applications were contemplated in the original settlement agreement.
Mr. Justice Bauman agreed that an extension was appropriate although declined the Plaintiff’s request for an indefinite extension.  Instead the Court moved the claims deadline to September 19, 2012 “without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ right to apply for further extensions“.  In striking this balance the Court provided the following comments seeking to reconcile the need for certainty in resolution against the need to protect BC sex abuse victims who generally aren’t faced with a limitation period in advancing their civil claims for damages:
[17]         I agree with the defendant that the application requires the Court to strike a balance between the parties which recognizes that in the give and take of the settlement negotiation process, each side made compromises to achieve their respective goals. It would be unfair, after the fact, to effectively take from one party a critical part of what it gained in the process through negotiation and compromise.
[18]         But in all the circumstances of this settlement, I do not believe that a substantial extension of the claims deadline can be so construed (especially in light of the fact that no limitation period attaches to these claims or at least a very substantial number of them). Still, an indefinite extension is not appropriate. I would, at this time, extend the claims deadline by one year to 19 September 2012, without prejudice to the plaintiffs’ right to apply for further extensions. It is not appropriate to condition this extension, as the defendant proposes, by requiring the Class Members to file a so-called “without prejudice interim claim” within three months. In my view, such a condition would effectively make the claims deadline extension illusory in the circumstances of the difficulties facing the plaintiffs and their counsel in advancing the claims process.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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