Canada's Attorney General has appointed three new judges to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to serve the province's rapidly growing southwest region and help ease a stubborn backlog of court cases.
A news release published Monday from the office of Attorney General and Justice Minister David Lametti said Tuesday that Martha A. Cook, J. Ross Macfarlane, and Joseph Perfetto will each fill judicial vacancies in London, Windsor, and St. Thomas, Ont.
Having more judges means more cases can be resolved at a faster pace, according to Andrew Murray, a personal injury lawyer and partner at Lerners LLP law firm in London.
"I can't tell you how important it is for us to have the full complement of judges here in our region in order to deal with the many different cases they have to process," he told CBC News.
"So it will definitely help cases of every variety, whether that's criminal or civil."
The five total appointments, announced Tuesday by Canada's Attorney General David Lametti, also include Nicola Edmundson who will serve Belleville, and M. Claire Wilkinson for Brampton.
When reached for a comment by CBC News, Cook and Macfarlane expressed their excitement for the new position, adding that they're thrilled to work with their new colleagues. Both declined to comment any further.
Trial delays have major impact on clients: lawyer
The addition of three new judges fills the three vacancies left behind by outgoing judges, but Murray believes the total number for the southwest region is no longer enough to serve the region, which has recently experienced rapid growth.
"When that number was set, it was many years ago, and my own view is it now lags fairly significantly behind that robust population growth that we've had," he said. "We probably need an extra two or three in our region to keep pace with our growth."
Murray says he's had trouble securing trial dates for some of his clients because courts are still dealing with the pile up of cases from previous years. When matters are called upon, they may get pushed back further due to a lack of space or availability for them to be heard, he said
Civil suits are usually last on the priority list due to the time sensitivity of criminal and family cases, he said.
"You can imagine how important it is to have a resolution on some of those issues of custody, access, support, or in more serious cases with child protection," he said.
"You can't wait on those things because the health and safety of families is in the balance, but they unfortunately put us to the back of the list."
Murray advises his clients on the potential delays they may face if their matter goes to trial, which can be due to factors other than court backlogs, but not getting a timely date can have significant consequences for plaintiffs and their compensation, he said.
"Financial repercussions when you're not working and waiting to be compensated can be life altering. People can lose their homes, and families can split up under that crunch," he said.
Murray says the province also needs to hire more courthouse staff including security officers and registrars to run operations smoothly.