Ontario to Fill Judicial Vacancies Faster
Changes to Address Delays for People Waiting for their Day in Court
Attorney General Doug Downey is proposing changes to fill judicial vacancies faster and more transparently to address delays for Ontarians waiting to resolve legal issues in front of a judge or justice of the peace.
Judges are currently selected through a recruitment process that can take over a year and allows judicial vacancies to languish and multiply. Typically, as few as two names are put forward at a time for the Attorney General's consideration, and candidates often have to reapply to be considered for the same vacancy that they just applied for.
"Judicial vacancies are sitting unfilled for far too long while people are left waiting for their day in court to resolve their legal matters," said Attorney General Doug Downey. "After months of consultation with justice partners, I am proposing changes to allow more qualified candidates to be appointed faster. To be clear, the mandatory qualifications will not be compromised and Attorneys General would continue to only appoint recommended candidates."
While the current legislated qualifications to become a judge or justice of the peace would stay the same, proposed changes would provide the Attorney General with a larger, more diverse list of candidates.
To help ensure Ontario's courts reflect the diverse communities of the province, the committees would be required to publish diversity statistics about candidates at each stage of the recruitment process. Changes will also be made to move the application process online.
The proposed changes include:
- Requiring the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee to consider candidates already vetted for the same vacancy within the past year, rather than having to redo the entire application process.
- Increasing the minimum number of candidates the committee presents to the Attorney General from two to six to allow for a larger, more diverse list of candidates to be considered for appointment.
- Improving transparency around candidate diversity by requiring the committees to publish more detailed diversity statistics in their annual reports (the disclosure of this information would be voluntary during the application process).
- Allowing greater flexibility for the committee to consider additional selection criteria if it chooses to do so, such as technology literacy and awareness in victims rights.
- Changing the composition of the justices of the peace committee to make the committee leaner and more efficient while continuing to ensure local voices are present and that committees represent the diversity of the communities they serve.
- Expanding the role of the committees from solely providing recommendations to the Attorney General on appointments to now leveraging the committee's collective expertise to provide advice on the appointments process.
- Allowing the committees to hold meetings and interviews online, saving time and resources for both the committee and candidates.
- An online application system will also be introduced that would eliminate the need for candidates to submit approximately 200 paper pages by mail, as they are required to do now.
There would be no changes to the current mandatory qualifications set out in legislation and no changes to the existing rule that the Attorney General is not able to ask the committee to reconsider judicial or justice of the peace candidates who were not recommended. The Attorney General will not be able to appoint a candidate who was deemed not recommended by the respective committee.
"The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association thanks the Attorney General for his continued commitment to consult with interested legal organizations regarding issues of common concern with the justice system. We agree with the Minister that the list of judicial candidates he can consider for appointment should be expanded to a minimum of six, and we also agree that candidates who are classified 'recommended' or 'highly recommended' by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee for a particular vacancy should automatically form part of a pool of eligible candidates for appointment for a minimum of one year, without having to reapply. We appreciate that the Minister's proposal addresses the need to achieve diversity and efficiency of technology."
- Allen Wynperle, President, Ontario Trial Lawyers Association
"The Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association appreciates the Attorney General providing us with the opportunity to consult about the JAAC and JPAAC process. We support the movement towards increased transparency in the selection process."
- Tony Loparco, President, Ontario Crown Attorneys' Association
"The Ontario Paralegal Association anticipates these changes will fill vacancies faster, produce qualified candidates and provide more transparency for candidates and the general public. The OPA is happy to continue to work on these changes and future changes with the Attorney General to advance access to justice for all Ontarians."
- Colleen Wansborough, Vice President, Ontario Paralegal Association
"The County of Carleton Law Association appreciates the extensive consultations undertaken by the Attorney General towards improving the provincial judicial appointment process. We particularly value the candour and openness shown by the Attorney General and his staff in the collective effort to improve the efficiency and transparency of the process, while ensuring that the independence of the Ontario judiciary is maintained. The CCLA notes that some aspects of our feedback have been incorporated into the Attorney General's proposals and we hope that the dialogue can continue."
- Ted Mann, President, County of Carleton Law Association
- There are two independent committees responsible for reviewing judge and justice of the peace applications in Ontario. The Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) and Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee (JPAAC) provide a list of candidates to the Attorney General, who makes appointments from this list.
- Judges and justices of the peace deliver independent and impartial justice to thousands of people who come before the Ontario Court of Justice in more than 200 locations across the province.