Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

BC Chief Justice angry at Oppal's comments

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Wednesday » November 1 » 2006
Top judge angry at Oppal's comments
B.C. Supreme Court chief to Oppal: 'You owe the judges of this court an apology'
 
Ian Mulgrew
Vancouver Sun
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
CREDIT: Canadian Press

B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Brenner has criticized Attorney-General Wally Oppal for attacking judges over their working hours.

Brenner, who is in charge of the senior trial bench, demanded an apology for what he called Oppal's "incomprehensible remarks" that "constitute a deliberate attempt to demean the judges of this court."

But in an interview late Tuesday, the attorney-general dismissed Brenner's complaint and said he had nothing to apologize for.

Oppal said the chief judge was "slightly overreacting" to his comments. "It wasn't an attack on the court," he said.

"No one has defended the court more than I. I've asked people about those comments and some have laughed at the chief judge's reaction. Some of his own judges have called me and are embarrassed at his reaction."

Brenner's comments, contained in an Oct. 18 e-mail obtained by The Vancouver Sun on Tuesday, arose out of an earlier Sun story in which Oppal commented on judges' working hours.

Brenner said Oppal must correct the record if he was misquoted.

The chief judge said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he was surprised The Sun had a copy of his missive.

"I sent a private communication to the attorney-general and it says what it says," he said.

He declined to elaborate on its contents.

"It speaks for itself," he said. "It was a private communication and it was certainly not my intention to release it."

Brenner said in his e-mail that he was reading a front-page report in the Oct. 13 edition of The Sun entitled "Slow Justice," which focused particularly on delays in the provincial court system.

Midway through the story by reporter Neal Hall, however, Oppal was quoted as saying the province's superior bench also could be more efficient.

"Why do we still start trials in the Supreme Court at 10 a.m.?" Oppal asked rhetorically in the article. "The judges will tell you that we have pre-trial conferences and pre-hearings. They do that. You know, they do them in Seattle Superior Court at 8:15 in the morning and they start their trials at 9 a.m."

Brenner said in the e-mail that such an unwarranted attack on the Supreme Court "using such unfounded and misleading language is unacceptable."

"As you well know, unlike the judges of the Seattle Superior Court, Canadian judges are required to write comprehensive reasons for judgment explaining their decision making," he wrote. "In criminal jury trials they are also obliged to prepare extensive jury instructions. Finally, and perhaps even more to the point, our court is not turning litigants away. Cases are proceeding and being heard as scheduled.

"In view of all this, as well as your background as a former member of this court and your current position as the Crown's Chief Law Officer, your remarks are incomprehensible. In my view they constitute a deliberate attempt to demean the judges of this court who work hard every day to see that the litigants before them have their cases heard in a timely fashion.

"You owe the judges of this court an apology."

But late Tuesday, Oppal laughed at Brenner's complaints.

"You know," he said, "Seattle judges don't get every fourth week off to write judgments."

Oppal said the court's hours are an issue raised regularly by lawyers and members of the public.

"What I said was the Supreme Court had done a pretty good job of managing their list and the problems were mainly in the provincial court," he explained.

"But we've got a lot of research that shows the number of cases in Supreme Court is falling in part because people are finding it too expensive and cumbersome. We're looking at the whole system to try and find solutions.

"We have to think outside the box and one of the things I suggested was that maybe we could look at judges' hours. We used to start at 11 o'clock and we've started at 10 o'clock for 20 years or so. Maybe we should look at that."

The Sun asked Brenner if he had heard from the attorney-general, Brenner said: "I have."

What was his response to the e-mail?

"I would prefer not to answer that."

Did he apologize?

"I have had communication with the attorney-general," Brenner said."I would leave it at that."

imulgrew@png.canwest.com
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[When the Chief Justice rebukes the Attorney General for comments which are "Unfounded and misleading" ... and for making "A deliberate attempt to demean the judges" ... What's going on here? - BC Mary.]
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Comments:
The chief judge said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he was surprised The Sun had a copy of his missive.

"I sent a private communication to the attorney-general and it says what it says," he said.

He declined to elaborate on its contents.

"It speaks for itself," he said. "It was a private communication and it was certainly not my intention to release it."


You are talking about the people's business, quit taking the public's paycheques and we'll stop caring what you think or say - do we have a deal. When you guys are bloviating on the public dime, it is the public's business. Want less oversight, go into private practice.

Reporters who don't report, judges with private agendas, and it was always my understanding that the Attorney General is MY ATTORNEY, that I share with 3,000,000 other people of BC.
 
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