New Brunswick

Province's newest chief justice calls for modern technology in courtrooms

The new chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench says she hopes a new wave of younger judges will be open to her push to take advantage of modern technology in the court system.

Tracey DeWare will encourage more use of court videoconferencing and electronic filing of documents

Court of Queen's Bench Chief Justice Tracey DeWare is pictured here at her swearing-in ceremony with New Brunswick Court of Appeal Chief Justice Marc Richard. (Submitted by Tracey DeWare)

The new chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench says she hopes a new wave of younger judges will be open to her push to take advantage of modern technology in the court system.

Tracey DeWare was named to the top administrative role on the court this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As chief justice, DeWare will still hear cases but will devote about half her time to administering the court by managing the caseload and assigning judges to cases.

DeWare, 49, has been a Court of Queen's Bench justice since 2012 and is bilingual. She takes over from former Chief Justice David Smith, who hung up his robes in March when he reached the mandatory retirementage of 75.

The federal government also appointed three New Brunswick lawyers to fill three other vacancies on the same court: Christa Bourque and Robert Dysart of Moncton and Arthur Doyle of Saint John.

Push for change

DeWare says she and the three new judges are all roughly the same age and that will make it easier for her to push the Court of Queen's Bench to embrace new technological tools.

"We really have had quite a bit of renewal over the course of the last couple of years. These  three new additions just add to that," she said in an interview.

"Now in the judiciary, you're drawing on people who in their [law] practices have had to evolve to 2019 already, to a certain extent. It becomes much easier as we try to revise our work on the court that you have people who are already halfway there."

Cameras in the courtroom could really demystify our system and be a wonderful educational tool.- Tracey DeWare, Court of Queen's Bench chief justice

DeWare says she'd like to see the court allow the electronic filing of legal documents, which would simplify the process and save money. "It's nonsensical that we wouldn't do that," she said.

She will also encourage greater use of existing court rules that allow people to testify or appear in court via videoconference.

That would make it easier and less expensive for expert witnesses, or a parent in a custody case who is working in another province. The system already allows it "but we really haven't exploited that, I don't think, as much as we can."

Openness is cornerstone of justice system

DeWare says she'd also like to move toward allowing cameras in courtrooms. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has allowed it in a very small number of high-profile appeals, and DeWare says it makes sense to broaden it.

"The courts are open," she said. "They're open to the public. That's a cornerstone of our justice system, and cameras in the courtroom could really demystify our system and be a wonderful educational tool."

DeWare's predecessor spent the last two years of his tenure in a dispute with the previous Liberal government over changes to the Judicature Act which took away his unilateral power to transfer Court of Queen's Bench judges to a different location.

The Liberal amendment to the law gave the provincial justice minister a veto, which Smith called an infringement on the independence of the courts.

DeWare didn't say whether she agreed with Smith but said she doesn't plan to press the issue with the provincial government.

"There's a law in place that must be followed," she said. "We will deal with that the first time the issue arises, but that's not something certainly that's on my priority list."

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