MO))) Editor May 22, 2021
Larry Lynch Verified #free

Will death of Justice Walsh cause court delays? Yes.

Miramichi Online inquired about when and if Justice Walsh would be replaced

When you hang around the courthouse every day like I do, you get to learn a little about how it operates behind the scenes, how busy it is, and how efficiently it runs or doesn't run.  If you don't spend any time at the courthouse, you just hope that when you need the services they offer, that the services will be offered in a timely fashion.

Justice Jack Walsh died suddenly on February 4th.  And because the Miramichi Law Courts is a busy jurisdiction, lawyers started to wonder how Walsh's workload would be handled.  Lawyers here say we have been blessed with hard working  judges, and if Walsh was not replaced, they worry that child and family matters will take longer to resolve, probate issues will take longer to resolve, and criminal matters could languish.  In addition they are worried that if the Clerk's position in Miramichi is not filled (it is currently being  filled part-time) that could be another bottleneck in the system.  Mind you, lawyers don't feel all that comfortable asking these questions themselves, and put the bug in my ear.   So I asked.

First I contacted the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs Canada.  They only offered a definition of the role of their office, and nothing more.

Secondly I contacted Minister Ted Flemming's officer about the Clerk's vacancy, and I was told by the media person that "while we strive to provide a high level of service, we do not comment on vacancies".

Finally, I reached out to the Chief Justice of the Court of Queen's Bench (whose very helpful assistant is fom Baie Ste-Anne).  Chief Justice Tracey DeWare responded promptly to my question about service in Miramichi.  It appears that Miramichi has been enjoying above average service compared to other regions, and the sudden shortage of judges in Miramichi will put us closer tot he provincial average.

Good afternoon Mr. Lynch,

Perhaps I can provide some reassurance as to the level of continuity of service at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Miramichi.

Following Justice Walsh’s sudden and tragic passing in February of this year, I made the decision to transfer his position to the Family Division of the Judicial District of Saint John. Currently, delays in the Family Division in Saint John run between 18 and 22 months for a matter to get to trial. In Miramichi we have been fortunate that matters can get to trial within 3 to 4 months. In an effort to allocate judicial resources to the areas most in need, Justice Walsh’s position was transferred from the judicial district of Miramichi, Trial Division to the judicial district of Saint John, Family Division.

Justice Ferguson will remain a fulltime member of the Court of Queen’s Bench unless and until he elects supernumerary status which he is eligible to do in October 2021. In the event Justice Ferguson elects to become a supernumerary judge his position at the Trial Division in the judicial district of Miramichi will be replaced by a new full-time judge who will be located permanently in Miramichi. Should Justice Ferguson elect to become a supernumerary judge he will sit roughly one half the docket of a full-time judge.

I am unable to comment on the vacancy in the position of the clerk in the judicial district of Miramichi as that is a position which falls under the administration of the Province of New Brunswick, Department of Justice and outside the scope of my authority.

I hope this information is responsive to your inquiries.

Yours very truly,

Tracey K. DeWare


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