Sometimes Ian Mulgrew mails in a shoddy effort: on Basi/Virk, for example. Other times he is thoughtful, incisive and on target: Dsziekanski and the RCMP, for example. Today Mulgrew is on track. I suggest you go to the Vancouver Sun pages and read B.C. legal system is ‘a ticking time bomb’:
…five years ago, we had 143 provincial judges; now we’re down to 130.
The B.C. Crown Counsel Association warns that not only are there not enough judges, there are not enough prosecutors either.
Victoria has long promised to add more; it hasn’t happened.
…To maintain the budgetary line, the Liberals have neglected the province’s legal infrastructure to an unconscionable level.
They closed 60 legal aid offices, the Vancouver Pre-Trial Centre, 10 jails and 24 courthouses. Pre-trial jails are said to be horrendously overcrowded.
All this at a time when the federal Conservatives were attaching mandatory jail sentences to more offences and threatening tougher enforcement.
It’s absurd — one level of government jacking up penalties while the other slashes funding so cases are tossed out of court for taking too long to get to trial.
Another thing that I find absurd is that Mike de Jong has been Attorney General for near two years and a Liberal Cabinet Minister for ten. During that time, the justice system in British Columbia degraded substantially while its political and bureaucratic managers paid themselves handsomely. The degradation continued even recently while the government claimed to be waging war against murderous drug gangs.
Despite being an abject failure as Attorney General, de Jong offers himself as the next BC Liberal Premier. That, more than anything else, labels this governing political party as careless, ignorant and incompetent. For de Jong to be a leadership candidate and in Cabinet, demonstrates his own lack of awareness and the paucity of political talent in Victoria.
Categories: BC Liberals, Justice
Infrastructure is not the problem. Ian Mulgrew's analysis is incomplete, and he ignores “the elephant in the room”, how lawyers and judges conduct their business.
For someone who’s spent years making a living reporting on justice matters, Mulgrew’s analysis is astoundingly shallow. For example, have the number of court cases increased? Crime stats are down from the last decade, so what's going on? It was also just reported that there were only half as many murder trials in Vancouver last year than the year before. The arcane, selectively applied “rules” of court are another cause of the bloated BC legal “system”. More judges needed? Think again.
The real problem is far, far more insidious and serious. The legal trade in Canada is not regulated in any meaningful way. They are a “self-regulated profession”, and unfortunately that means the fox is guarding the henhouse (i.e. public).
One of the primary causes of the mess in the court and judicial system is the fact that lawyers get paid to delay matters. And, neither the law society nor judges penalize lawyers for such delays, even if the lawyer’s actions are illegal or malicious. Countless examples abound, but the public will never hear about them because the media “isn’t interested” or they hide behind “can’t report because it’s before the courts”, an excuse that’s selectively used by the media when it suits their purpose.
Unlike other countries, we in Canada are being hoodwinked by the legal trade. In the last few years, other countries (e.g. New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain) have all done away with “self-regulation” of the legal profession. It just doesn’t work. Independent oversight by the public is essential.
A Dec 2008 article in Lawyer Weekly by Jeff Roberts, which largely worries about the protection of lawyers, not of the public, acknowledges that other countries have eclipsed Canada in regulation of the legal trade:
“Australia has largely moved towards a system in which lawyer oversight is done through a form of co-regulation between the profession and the state. In many U.S. states, oversight is through the courts. New Zealand is in the process of creating a uniform national model of regulation. Nor is the drive for reform limited to the common law world as France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy is attempting wholesale review of the country’s legal profession.” http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/Time-to-streamline-the-societies.html?print=1&tmpl=component
A decade ago, the BC Ombudsman's Office had received so many complaints about the conduct of the BC Law Society that an Inquiry was launched into the Law Society. However, shortly after Gordon Campbell became premier, he removed the funding from the Ombudsman for that Inquiry and it was shut down before it was completed. The current Ombudsman is a lawyer, Kim Carter, and (surprise!) she shows no interest in investigating problems with the BC Law Society.
Self-interest invariably becomes the primary goal of self-regulated groups. A lack of meaningful scrutiny and accountability then leads quickly to corruption. Hence lawyers and judges can (and do) do pretty much as they please. This is especially so when the main media players are all co-opted (embedded?) into the game.
That my dear citizens of BC is the real problem with the legal and judicial system. Not “infrastructure”, not turning more lawyers into judges.
Excellent comment that speaks to an important root cause of difficulty. Clearly, this is a subject worth further exploration. Not only Mulgrew's analysis was shallow. Mine was too.
We need two judicial systems. One for brain dead politicians, who are called on to testify, in our corrupt courts. And of course, the wealthy are included. And, another judicial system, for the everyday people. In BC, justice is only for those, who can afford it. Campbell had to sabotage the BC judicial system, because, of his corrupt sale of the BCR. De Jong's blatant cover-up, and his thieving of our tax dollars, to pay for all of the, legal expenses incurred, by the two patsies, who took the fall for Campbell the criminal, who sold the BCR. That is true BC justice, corrupt and useless.
re: Canadian Canary
After reading your comment to my wife, we both agree that is without a doubt an excellent portrayal of our judicial/legal system.
Guy in Victoria
My original argument was intended to be a shot at de Jong for his failure as Attorney General. Canadian Canary makes sense. The AG is almost irrelevant; the judicial system operates as its financial beneficiaries intend. Justice for individuals or society as a whole is not an objective, it is almost a side issue for the industry.
Most litigators and their associates are happy with the present foot-dragging system. One to four hours a day in court works just fine for those handling numerous files. Delays and short days add time and time is money. de Jong, by not interfering overtly, allows money to flow in large quantities. That is the primary aim.
There's something incredulous about how you are taking such cheap shots at Mike de Jong. The problems described in your post and comments are absolutely NOT specific to BC. I'm from Ontario. The feet dragging there by legal professionals is shocking. Pointing the finger at the current, or more recent AG is spurious, but I think you probably know that.
Now that is an interesting point Mrs. de Jong. Let's not point a finger at the top law official in the province. That would be so unfair.
Usually, I do not respond with cheap shots when someone disagrees with content here. However, Mr./Ms Anonymous (9:40 am) stated my remarks directed at Mike de Jong were spurious. That comment originated from a Vancouver PR agency so is probably from a flack that treasures the BC Liberals. BTW, neither that statement nor the ones about the unesteemed former Attorney General were spurious. I mean them quite earnestly.