Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Ethics and Leadership in Times of Austerity: Ontario's Courts and "Justice on Target"

Academic journal article The Innovation Journal

Ethics and Leadership in Times of Austerity: Ontario's Courts and "Justice on Target"

Article excerpt


Inefficiencies in the public service are best identified by public servants actually delivering the services. If these employees are convinced that they will be treated with respect- which includes the assurance that they will continue to be employed although possibly in a different capacity-and if these employees have the integrity to care about the public good in contrast to thinking of their employment as merely a job to pay the bills, they are likely to generate ideas that could result in more effective public services at less cost. In addition to input from the field, a successful cost saving strategy requires strong, high profile leadership from top departmental personnel such as the Minister and Deputy Minister. And finally, a successful strategy requires that all key stakeholders are properly consulted, and buy into to the recommended strategy (Gabor and Greene, 2002).This paper tests this argument by analyzing the successes and failures of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General's "Justice on Target" initiative. Announced by the Attorney General in 2008, the goal of this innovation was to reduce by an average of 30 per cent the number of court appearances between the initiation of a case and its disposition, and the average time between initiation and disposition. This goal was to have been met within four years. Unnecessary delays in processing cases lead to hardship and pain for many litigants and often also for witnesses. Failure to prevent and reduce unnecessary delays is clearly an ethical issue.

Keywords: justice system ethics, court delays, criminal justice reform, stakeholder participation, caseflow management

Inefficiencies in caseflow management

Caseflow management refers to the management of cases, both criminal and civil, filed in any court, beginning with the filing of the case in court, and ending with the disposition of the case. Court administration is a distinct field in public administration because of two major factors.

First, because of judicial independence, judges have the constitutional power to control any administrative matters in their court that directly affect Adjudication (Valente v. The Queen [1985] 2 S.C.R. 673).

Second, unlike most other public service departments, where all stakeholders want the department to work as efficiently and as effectively as possible, this is not the case with courts. Some trial lawyers hope to delay their client's case from coming to trial for as long as possible. Counsel representing criminal accused persons who are in danger of being found guilty (either because there is bias in the evidence, or because they are likely guilty), may think that the best strategy is to delay as long as possible. In criminal cases, witnesses will move away, or get discouraged after coming to court several times and having the case put over, and of course their memory will fade, making it easier for counsel for the accused to trip them up in cross examination. In civil cases, parties at risk of losing their case will sometimes delay in order to raise the money they expect to be liable for. As well, lawyers for wealthy corporations know that they may be able to force smaller litigants to settle out of court for less, because the smaller litigants cannot afford the cost of lengthy delays (Greene, 2006).

Because of these factors, the academic study of court administration is a distinct field in the discipline of public administration (Baar and Greene, 2010). There is a constant battle between those who want to make the system work as efficiently, effectively and fairly as possible, and those who do not. So long as we remain part of the common law adversarial system, this battle will continue. As well, the recommendations or decisions of administrative staffmay be overruled by judges, thanks to the important and legitimate principle of judicial independence. This situation will exist for as long as courts remain a separate branch of government-a necessary condition to promote impartial judicial decision-making. …

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