Closing four Saskatchewan circuit court points could lead to more expensive travel and court proceeding delays, according to the province’s trial lawyers association’s president.
In April, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court decided that circuit court points will close this year in Watrous, Carnduff, Big River and Southey. Judges travel to circuit court points to hold proceedings in communities that do not have a permanent provincial court office.
Four circuit courts being closed in Saskatchewan: justice critic
This week, the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyer Association (STLA) responded to the measure through a news release that expressed concerns the move would add delays to “an already congested court system.”
“You take all the matters from one centre and you just dump it into another, on top of what’s already an existing busy schedule,” STLA president Jeffrey Deagle said in an interview Tuesday.
“You’re not opening up any more court times, you’re not opening up any more access to judges, you are simply adding more to the already existing queue that may be bulging at the seams in some locations.”
READ MORE: Sask. government told by OHS to halt plans to cut 14 deputy sheriffs
The Chief Judge regularly reviews the province’s judicial resources, according to a spokesperson for the Courts of Saskatchewan. A number of factors are taken into consideration, including the number of appearances at a certain location and how far a circuit court point is from the next closest court location.
However, the STLA said the four locations were chosen without consultation. Deagle said the move could cause “individuals a lot more hardship” if they wish to take certain legal action.
“If they want to bring a small claims action and they could easily do it because their court point was only a few minutes way, they may not want to do it anymore because now they have to go through the extra expense of going hours away,” Deagle said.
“I think in some ways it does a disservice to our system of justice because it doesn’t allow timely and effective access to all the rural people especially.”
READ MORE: Weyburn’s mayor concerned about office closures at courthouse
The STLA’s response to the closures came days after they were announced because the group was communicating with its broad membership in order to be “on a common front” before a statement was made, according to Deagle.
Watrous’ court has already completed its final sitting, while Carnduff is set to hold its last court day on Thursday. Big River and Southey’s circuit court points will close later this year.