Quebec reaches agreement with Chief Justice, will add 14 new judges
Quebec Government House Leader and Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette walks to question period, Tuesday, January 31, 2023 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette and Court of Quebec Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau reached a "compromise" Friday that will see 14 new judges added to the Court of Quebec's current complement this year, while judges will sit a few more days a year.
The agreement puts an end to the disagreement that persisted between the government and the Court of Quebec regarding the judges' schedule.
At the heart of the dispute was the reform implemented by the Chief Justice, which provides that judges will now sit one day out of two, rather than two days out of three, due to the increasing complexity of cases. The rest of the time is reserved for analysis and judgment writing.
At the same time, Justice Rondeau asked Quebec to appoint 41 additional judges to speed up the pace in the courthouses.
In response, the minister had calculated last November that the new work ratios for judges could result in the abandonment of as many as 50,000 court cases in Quebec by 2023.
On Friday, the two parties reached an "amicable solution" that will add 14 judges to the criminal and penal divisions of the Court of Quebec. The new judges will be appointed in 2023, the agreement said.
The judges will give up their new ratio of courtroom attendance every other day. In addition to this ratio, which is equivalent to 104 days per year, they will sit an additional 17 days for the 2023-2024 judicial year, 17 days for the 2024-2025 judicial year and six days for the period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2025.
The two parties also aim to achieve a median case closure time of 212 days by Dec. 31, 2025, and a rate of 87.7 per cent of cases closing within 18 or 30 months.
Friday's agreement was reached in discussions led by former Quebec Court of Appeal Judge Jacques Chamberland, who was appointed as facilitator on the file last January.
On Twitter, Minister Jolin-Barrette spoke of an agreement "that will reduce judicial delays, to the benefit of the victims and citizens."
"Their interests must come first," he wrote.
A review of the new agreement will be conducted in early 2026.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 21, 2023.