Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Government May Consider Radical Reforms To Fix Broken Criminal Trial System

At a recent University of Ottawa conference, University of Toronto law professor Michael Code warned that "unprofessional conduct" by defence and Crown attorneys in large criminal cases has governments contemplating far-reaching reforms to make the trial process more efficient.

Code's remarks are reported in the article Lawyers told to take responsibility to prevent radical criminal reforms in the April 11, 2008 issue of The Lawyers Weekly.

Code explained that some of the changes being debated behind the scenes include:
"(...) expanding the power of judges to vigorously manage the seemingly endless pretrial motions; restricting the timing, procedure and form of disclosure; expanding legal aid officials’ ability to oversee and restrain the legal aid budgets of long criminal trials, and restructuring the legal aid tariff to economically reward brevity and efficiency and deter inefficiency; and adding jury alternates to ensure that long, arduous trials don’t end in mistrials because jury members have dropped out."
Code, along with Patrick LeSage, the former chief justice of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, has been appointed by the Ontario government to lead a review of large and complex criminal case procedures (see the Library Boy post of February 25, 2008 entitled Ontario Launches Review of Complex Criminal Cases).

Also speaking at the University of Ottawa was Michael Moldaver, an Ontario Court of Appeal judge, who almost accused his fellow magistrates of having lost control:
"The Bench shares the blame to the extent that judges give up control of their courtrooms to the litigants, fail to bring a quick halt to frivolous motions, or fail to reign in counsel 'who go on endlessly,' said Justice Moldaver."

"He noted criminal trials 'are almost unrecognizable' from when he practiced 30 years ago. Murder cases that would have been tried in five to seven days, now take five to seven weeks, or months. By contrast he pointed to the recent U.S. trial and conviction of former press baron, Conrad Black. 'If this man had been charged in Canada... I guarantee you we would still be at the production stage here,' he observed."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:16 pm


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