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Alberta's Judge-Shortage Crisis

September 30, 2016

The Calgary Herald has recently reported on Alberta’s crisis-level shortage of judges. This growing problem affects all parties seeking access to the courts, including family law litigants.

As reported by the Herald, Chief Justice Neil Wittman told a Senate Committee meeting in Calgary that “a wait time for criminal cases reaching trial is now typically between 62 and 63 weeks, while civil matters can take 138 weeks”. In relation to these unnaceptable delays, Judge Terrence Matchett of the Provincial Court of Alberta said that “justice delayed is truly justice denied.”

Family law proceedings are equally affected. The Court is currently scheduling family law trials for mid-2019 due to the unavailability of judges. Special chambers applications, which would include such matters as parenting access and interim spousal support, are being scheduled for the fall of 2017. These growing delays threaten the viability of the court process as a forum for dispute resolution.

People seeking resolution to their divorce proceedings or other disputes are forced to look elsewhere. Our firm has seen a substantial increase in private mediation and arbitration. Of course, these private solutions must be paid for by the parties to the dispute. Although mediation offers substantial legal cost savings over the court process for most middle income families, there is still a cost. Those who cannot afford it, are forced to wait.

McGurk Fraese Family Lawyers joins the Justices of the Court of Queen’s Bench in calling for the immediate appointment of 9 judges to fill existing vacancies and bring Alberta’s complement of judges in line with our neighboring provinces.


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