P.E.I. Chief Justice urges Ottawa to fill vacancies in P.E.I. court

Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell says he's been in regular contact with federal officials about filling two vacancies on P.E.I. Supreme Court trial division.

Gordon Campbell says vacancies have led to delays in cases

Justice Gordon Campbell has been acting chief of the trial division since Jacqueline Matheson reduced her hours in January. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell is urging federal officials to fill two judge vacancies on P.E.I. as soon as possible.

Two of the five positions with the Supreme Court trial division are vacant. Justice Ben Taylor retired in August.

Prior to that, Justice Wayne Cheverie went to half-time in September 2016, followed by former Chief Justice Jacqueline Matheson in January 2017. 

Campbell said he's in regular contact with the federal justice minister's office about the need to fill the positions. 

They're well aware of our needs- Justice Gordon Campbell

A provincial selection committee screens applicants, but it's up to Ottawa to make the appointments.

"They're well aware of our needs, the process is unfolding and we're hopeful of something happening soon," said Campbell.

Shortage leads to delays

The lack of judges has lead to delays in family, civil and criminal matters. 

"When things book up you know a month, six weeks in advance, that might mean bumping something for a couple of months. It's unfortunate but if we just don't have a body to put on the bench then we can't do it," said Campbell.

However, he said none of the delays so far have been extreme.

"While I fully appreciate that people want their day in court whether it's on on family matter, or a civil matter or a criminal matter — and I appreciate delay is not good — no, we are not in any point yet in any case that I'm aware of that we've infringed the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] or are getting close to it."

5-year commitment

Campbell has been acting chief justice since Matheson reduced her hours, however he isn't interested in taking on the role permanently. A chief justice has to commit to five years of full-time work, said Campbell, and at the age of 64 he wants to keep his options open to cut back on his hours at some point.

"We had a bit of a family health issue, that caused us to step back, look at our priorities and say you know, it's probably a good idea to maintain the flexibility and I'm very content and comfortable with that decision," he said.

In addition to Campbell, Justices Nancy Key and Tracey Clements are the other two full-time judges in P.E.I.'s Supreme Court Trial Division.

Campbell is adding his concerns to those raised last week by David Jenkins, Chief Justice of the Appeal Division.

About the Author

Sally Pitt

Producer

Sally Pitt is a producer with CBC and has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years in online, TV, radio and print. She specializes in justice issues and also works with the CBC Atlantic Investigative Unit. You can reach her at sally.pitt@cbc.ca.