Ontario's Current and Proposed Judicial Appointments Process
Following extensive consultation with justice partners, Ontario is proposing changes to the appointments process for judges and justices of the peace to increase transparency and address delays for people waiting to resolve legal issues faster in front of a judge or justice of the peace.
In Ontario, the Attorney General can recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council the appointment of judicial and justice of the peace candidates recommended by the Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) or the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee (JPAAC). The two committees would continue to independently assess and provide recommended candidates to the Attorney General.
Candidate Qualifications and Selection Criteria
The current mandatory qualifications (e.g. education and number of years of experience required) for judicial and justice of the peace candidates are set out in legislation and will not change.
The JAAC and JPAAC would continue to establish and apply selection criteria to evaluate candidates. Under the proposed changes, the Attorney General would have the ability to recommend additional selection criteria such as an awareness of victims' issues. The JAAC and JPAAC may choose to accept the criteria recommended by the Attorney General. To ensure transparency, the committees would be required to make the recommended selection criteria public with the rest of the selection criteria established by the committee.
The JAAC and JPAAC are currently not required to share information about the diversity of candidates who apply for appointment. The proposed change would require the committees to publish diversity statistics in their publicly available annual report, which would include candidates' gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, cultural identity, disability and identification as an Indigenous person or a member of the Francophone community.
Diversity statistics would be collected and published to reflect various stages of the recruitment process (e.g. application and interview stage) as directed by the Attorney General. The disclosure of any diversity information by candidates would be voluntary.
Modernizing the Process
The current process to apply to be a judge or justice of the peace requires candidates to send applications in the mail. The government will be working with both committees to move to an online application system. This would eliminate the need for candidates to print and mail hundreds of pages when applying for a vacancy, allowing candidates to quickly update their application with new information (e.g. if they want to be considered for a different vacancy by using a previously-filed application, within a two-year time period).
The proposed changes would also authorize the JAAC and JPAAC to hold interviews and conduct meetings electronically when appropriate.
The current committee includes:
- Two provincial judges appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
- Three lawyers (one appointed by the Law Society of Ontario, one appointed by the Ontario Bar Association and one appointed by the Federation of Ontario Law Associations).
- Seven people who are not a judge or lawyer appointed by the Attorney General.
- A member of the Ontario Judicial Council appointed by the Ontario Judicial Council.
The proposed changes would allow the Attorney General to appoint the three lawyer members from lists of recommended names provided by the Law Society of Ontario, the Ontario Bar Association and the Federation of Ontario Law Associations.
To improve efficiency, the proposed changes would reduce the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee from 63 to 38 members. This would 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.
The core committee currently has seven members including:
- A judge of the Ontario Court of Justice appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
- A justice of the peace appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
- A justice of the peace appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice who is either the Senior Justice of the Peace Responsible for the Ontario Native Justice of the Peace Program or another justice of the peace familiar with aboriginal issues.
- Four people appointed by the Attorney General.
The revised core committee would have three members including:
- A provincial judge or justice of the peace appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice.
- A justice of the peace appointed by the Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice who is either the Senior Indigenous Justice of the Peace or another justice of the peace familiar with Indigenous issues.
- One person appointed by the Attorney General.
There are currently up to eight members in each of the seven regions including:
- The regional senior judge of the Ontario Court of Justice for the region or another judge of the Ontario Court of Justice from the same region.
- The regional senior justice of the peace for the region or, when he or she is not available to act as a member of the Advisory Committee, another justice of the peace from the same region.
- Up to five other people appointed by the Attorney General.
- A local lawyer appointed by the Attorney General from a list of three names submitted by the Law Society of Ontario.
The revised regional membership would be reduced to five people including:
- The regional senior justice of the peace for the region.
- A licensee (lawyer or paralegal) appointed by the Attorney General from a list of three names provided by the Law Society of Ontario.
- Up to three other people appointed by the Attorney General.
Members on both the JAAC and JPAAC would be prohibited from being appointed as a judge or justice of the peace, respectively, for three years following them sitting on the JAAC and JPAAC.
The JAAC will continue to be required to present candidates for a judicial appointment to the Attorney General, and the minimum number of candidates on the list will increase from two to six. The Attorney General will only be able to appoint candidates who have been recommended and will not be able to ask for any candidates to be reclassified.
At the time of recommendation, the JAAC would also provide the Attorney General with a full list of candidates considered for that vacancy that the JAAC has classified as "recommended" or "highly recommended." The Attorney General would not be able to see the list of candidates who are "not recommended."
The Attorney General would continue to be able to reject the list of candidates and ask the committee to provide a new list. The new list would be pulled from the existing pool of "recommended" or "highly recommended" candidates.
The new application process would allow candidates to be automatically considered for future vacancies for the same court location/practice area for which they have already applied within one year prior, without having to reapply.
The JPAAC recruitment and selection process will be improved, making it faster and more efficient. The JPAAC will classify candidates as "not recommended," "recommended" and "highly recommended" and provide that list to the Attorney General. The Attorney General would only be able to recommend the appointment of a justice of the peace who is classified as "recommended" or "highly recommended" by the JPAAC.