|For immediate release||March 19, 2002|
Law Society sues government over court closures
VANCOUVER – The Law Society of B.C. today filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the provincial government's decision to close 24 courthouses.
"The decision to close the courthouses affects matters of judicial administration which are outside the constitutional authority of the attorney general," Law Society President Richard Gibbs, Q.C. said.
The Law Society will assert that the decision to close the courthouses:
Requires a direction from the Provincial Court judiciary as to matters of judicial administration such as the assignment of judges, the sittings of the court, court lists and related matters of allocation of court rooms and the direction of administrative staff.
Affects the constitutional independence of the judiciary.
Interferes with duties and functions of the provincial court which are prescribed by statute such as the power to order that a trial take place at a certain place on a certain day under the Criminal Code.
"The Attorney General believes that he can unilaterally close law courts solely to achieve budget reductions. The Law Society says that the needs of the judiciary and of the public for access to those law courts must be taken into account and accommodated. This is an issue of principle between the executive and the judiciary in which the Law Society stands up for the independence of the judiciary," Mr. Gibbs said.
The case will be heard on April 9, 2002.
With over 10,000 members, the Law Society of British Columbia is the governing body for the B.C. legal profession. Its chief executive officer is the Executive Director and its senior elected official is the President. The Law Society's principal responsibility is to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice and to set standards for the education, professional responsibility and competence of practising lawyers in the province.
Law Society of B.C. media contact:
Brad Daisley, Public Affairs Manager
Office: 604-443-5724 or 1-800-903-5300 toll-free in B.C.