Mitigation in systemic merger of courts not on horizon | Rocco Achampong

By Rocco Achampong

Law360 Canada (June 19, 2023, 8:34 AM EDT) --
Rocco Achampong
Rocco Achampong
It is a trite observation to say we are now in a period of systemic transition, having amalgamated the various court locations into one in Toronto. Our pre-amalgamation experience had various court locations in the city, each with its own case management and bail courts. Our post-amalgamation experience is crystallizing, but the transitory process and experience is seemingly bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

There is now one bail courthouse for all Toronto, styled the Toronto Region Bail Court (TRBC), and layered case management courts located in one courthouse — some are judge led, and the rest is the province of justices of the peace. In reporting from the front lines, I am inexorably led to conclude that the systemic merger of the multiple courthouses has been a disaster, with mitigation not yet on the horizon.

It could seem to some that the characterization of the transitory process as a disaster may be hyperbolic, far exceeding the threshold of exaggeration, but it is not. Courts are sitting well into the evening, judicial attention to individual cases stymied by haste to conclude the docket of the day, and meaningful attendances to further one’s right to full answer and defence in a Charter-compliant way has been frustrated. This writer’s experiences thus far inform these observations, corroborated by the expressed exasperation of many a justice system participant.

Backlog is the oft refrain to explain records management delays, even with something as simple as a transcriptionist request for court audio to transcribe for ongoing proceedings. And, while the foregoing speaks to the experience of the criminal courts, it seems backlog a la COVID and systemic pressure is a remix to the aforementioned oft refrain in the civil context. Simply put, the process of justice is now in crisis, and there seems no political will to confront the issue. Why political will? Fair question. Precisely, because our political offices control the resources required to ameliorate the current state of the justice system, and one has yet to hear any pronouncement from relevant offices respecting the issue.

Dare I some speculative musing and hazard a hypothesis as to why this crisis does not litter the front pages of the public record: criminal accused are the low-hanging fruit, easily ignored and, more often than not, the least of us. And, for whom should the advocate speak — the voiceless?

So, here it is, an advocate’s attempt to bring the issue to the fore, though one suspects fellow barristers are equally entrenched at the front lines of this progressive decrepitude. And, sadly, as much as we are the advocates for our clients, we are also advocates of the system, true believers in the rule of law, and our very own process. And, dear friends, we are not looking good in the eyes of our clients or the public. The very legitimacy of the legal process is at issue, and our systemic shortcomings are failing the institution’s objective — to let justice be done, and right prevail — not only in the criminal context, but also in our civil courts.

Rocco Achampong is a prominent lawyer and community leader in the city of Toronto. He can be reached at roccoachampong@gmail.com.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.  

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