Quebec Superior Court chief justice highlights court administration issues after COVID-19

We can work fairly well at this point in time. My main concern is not today; my main concern is tomorrow. Now we’re dealing with files that are ready for trial but cannot proceed. Our motions (practice) courts have not been working at full strength; the logistics of a trial always needs four to five people: the judge, lawyers, one to two of the parties, and the court clerk. It’s very difficult to put them all in the same place safely at the same time. So we’re doing a lot by videoconference, [and] we’re doing some in person when it cannot wait.

But my assessment now is that we’re losing 1,000 judge days per month (i.e., the number of days that judges are sitting on the bench). It’s going down now; [but] if I assigned somebody for 15 days on a case … and none of them has been hearing trials, we’re losing days.

The number of judges is not sufficient to meet the needs, not in this province, most probably not in B.C., or in Alberta or Ontario [or other provinces]. And we will have to decide on many, many cases that should have been decided in March, April, May, even June. But with cameras and personal computers, we might work at 70 per cent of our usual rate.

There are many lawyers that I’ve heard of who have concerns about the way to go about cross-examination [remotely] and have concerns about the credibility of witnesses. They’re fair concerns.

What is your greatest concern right now?

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