The Civil Law System in Ontario is breaking/broken – but no one is noticing

The news this week has been of health care cuts and reductions in spending in that sector – there is good reason for that. The average person needs health care and it impacts on them directly.

Cuts can seep into government over time and produce a global result of utter failure which kind of “snuck up on us”. This is the situation we are now facing in Ontario in the Civil Law system.

As a reader of this blog, you should be aware that our firm is a Business Law firm.

We are in Court weekly enforcing and defending the rights of businesses in the Ontario Courts. We have noticed cuts over time that have had little initial impact, but we anticipated would ultimately have a big impact. Well, that time is now.

Here are a few real life examples from the week that was in our firm:

1. The Sheriffs in Ontario take at least 6 weeks after receiving a Court Order to repossess an item to act on it.

Why? Because the Government is not appointing new Sheriffs, so as they quit/retire there are fewer of them.

The rational solution would be to allow private, Government Licenced Bailiffs to fill that gap, however, the Government Ministry responsible for Bailiffs is actively campaigning to prevent Bailiffs from enforcing Court Orders. Judges can Order a private Bailiff to repossess an item, however, the Ministry will pull their Licence if they actually do what a Judge says they can.

Why should you care? If you are a business, this is slowing down your ability to re-take possession of items that are not being paid for and are still in possession of a debtor.

If you are “the average Jane/Joe” your costs to buy/lease/rent items will be increasing and the credit requirements will tighten further as companies that extend credit have to factor in the delays in the cost of financing.

2. Brampton Ontario will not allow anyone to file a Motion Without Notice to be spoken to ahead of time. This leaves two options:

a. Send a lawyer down on the day they want to speak to the motion to sit all day and hope they are reached on the list;

b. File the motion over the counter and wait to get it back.

Option a sounds more expensive, doesn’t it? That could be a full day for a lawyer in Court. However, we recently used option b to obtain Judgment.

We filed our Judgment materials the last week of March, 2012. A Judge signed the Order on March 30, 2012. Brampton Court Clerks only entered the Judgment in their system on May 1, 2012 – six weeks after we received Judgment, and to be clear, 2 weeks after the Appeal period of that Judgment expired.

Better still, the entered Order was put in the “to be picked up pile” on May 10, 2012, a further delay.

Why should you care? If you have a proceeding in Brampton you have the “Sophie’s Choice” of increased lawyer costs or increased delay – this is Justice?

Why is no newspaper writing about this crisis? To believe that these delays only impact companies is foolish – delays and increased costs are ultimately passed on to everyone.

We need to have a real conversation about adequately funding our Civil Justice System – because when it breaks down, we have anarchy.

I’ve seen news footage of anarchy: it isn’t pretty.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD