Law Times

March 7, 2016

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Lawyers push Ontario to invest in Solicitors Act assessment process Wait times for hearings 'unacceptably long': judge BY MICHAEL MCKIERNAN For Law Times O ntario lawyers have urged the provincial government to invest in the Solicitors Act assessment process after a superior court judge labelled wait times for hearings "unacceptably long." Ontario Superior Court Justice Sean Dunphy made the comments as he dismissed requests by Toronto intellectual property law firm Gilbert's LLP for an order that two clients pay outstanding bills aris- ing from undisputed retainers. Calling the applications an "attempt to circumvent the assessment procedure," Dunphy nevertheless expressed sympathy for the firm's pre- dicament in the case of Gilbert's LLP v. Dixon Inc. "I fully recognize that the profession is currently experiencing a de- gree of frustration with the delays cropping up in the assessment process under the Solicitors Act," he wrote in his Jan. 29 decision. "The delay required to obtain a hearing is, by all accounts, unacceptably long. How- ever, the answer to a shortage of resources devoted to one part of the justice system cannot be to overload those devoted to another that has not been designed or staffed to deal with it." James Morton, a former president of the Ontario Bar Association, says the sheer volume of cases assigned to assessment officers has always threatened to overwhelm the system, with many clients using the process to protest the result of their case, rather than their bill. However, the situation was exacerbated by a 2014 decision in which the Divisional Court barred lawyers from taking legal fee disputes to the Small Claims Court where a written retainer agreement existed between the parties, and lawyers are now reporting waits of up to two years for hearings from the date an account was rendered. "The assessment process has been problematic for at least two de- cades," says Morton, a partner with Morton Karrass LLP in Toronto, pin- ning the blame on a lack of resources from the provincial government. "If Violent crime down, but justice costs increase BY ELIZABETH THOMPSON For Law Times W hile the rate of re- ported crimes is the lowest it has been in decades, the cost of Canada's criminal justice system is steadily increasing, say top fed- eral justice department officials. Testifying before the House of Commons justice committee, Donald Piragoff, senior assistant deputy minister in the policy sector, painted a picture of a criminal justice system straining at the seams. The rate of violent crimes has dropped 28 per cent over the past decade and robbery decreased 39 per cent. At the same time, the cost of running the criminal jus- tice system has risen 36 per cent over the past 10 years and is con- tinuing to increase. Policing costs are up 43 per cent. Corrections costs have risen 32 per cent and the cost of the court system is up 21 per cent. One reason for the increase in costs is the fact that police offi- cers are increasingly asked to play a social worker role, Piragoff ex- plained. While the United Nations says across the world one quarter of people in prison have not yet re- ceived a sentence or are awaiting trial, the rate is much higher in Canada, said Piragoff. "In Canada . . . for the last de- cade, more than half of those in provincial/territorial custody are in remand — that is they are not sentenced offenders, they have not had a trial, they are awaiting their trial." Indigenous offenders account for 24 per cent of all admissions to remand across the country — up from 19 per cent in 2005 and 2006, he said. The population in federal peni- tentiaries has risen 14.6 per cent in the past 10 years — 12 per cent for men and 39 per cent for women. The federal justice department is predicting that if nothing chang- es, there will be an additional 1,000 inmates in federal custody in 10 years. "If things just stay the way they RETAINING WOMEN New research from the Criminal Lawyers' Association P4 LSUC DISCIPLINE Lawyer facing issues over trust account withdrawals P5 FOCUS ON Immigration Law P8 See Feds, page 2 PM #40762529 $5.00 • Vol. 27, No.8 March 7, 2016 L AW TIMES C O V E R I N G O N T A R I O ' S L E G A L S C E N E • W W W . L A W T I M E S N E W S . C O M See Arbitration, page 2 Mick Hassell says the state of the assessment process has contributed to the growth of arbitration. Photo: Robin Kuniski Trevor Brown says he supports the federal government's plan to study alternatives in administrative justice cases and to give police officers more discretion to release offenders. & $#&!&jmmm$cYa[bbWh$Yec ntitled-4 1 12-03-20 10:44 AM TORONTO | BARRIE | HAMILTON | KITCHENER 1-866-685-3311 | cLeish Orlando_LT_Jan_20_14.indd 1 14-01-15 3:15 PM A DAILY BLOG OF CANADIAN LEGAL NEWS FEEDS LEGAL POWERED BY LEGALFEEDS.CA LegalFeeds_LT_Mar7_16.indd 1 2016-03-03 10:56 AM

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