A Calgary lawyer says Albertans are losing a valuable service because of a shortage of judges.
Starting this fall, judicial dispute resolutions (JDRs) will only be provided by two judges per week — down from three — in Edmonton and Calgary.
JDRs are highly sought after because they help people avoid lengthy and expensive trials, said Chadwick Newcombe.
"Going to trial is ridiculously expensive," he said.
JDRs are available in the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta.
Counsel for both sides of a dispute confidentially discuss the background of their case with a judge who then proposes possible solutions and may give a non-binding opinion on the likely outcome of a trial.
Newcombe said he’s disappointed there aren’t enough judges available to meet the demand for JDRs.
"They're quite valuable, extremely valuable, it’s rare in my experience to go to a JDR where a settlement doesn't result,” he said.
“The court doesn’t have the resources to keep a successful program that helps get these things resolved in a timely and cost-effective fashion.”
There are other avenues for alternative dispute resolution — such as mediation and arbitration — but those services cost more, Newcombe said.
A spokesperson for Alberta Justice said the province has been asking the federal government to appoint more judges to the Court of Queen’s Bench.
On a per capita basis, Alberta has lowest number of superior court judges in Canada.