Toronto Sun

Tuesday, January 11, 2000

Courts backlog finally slashed

By LAURA BOBAK AND GRETCHEN DRUMMIE, TORONTO SUN

Ontario's top judges say they've slashed the backlog of cases awaiting trial before the province's courts.

"Our pending caseload is down," Chief Justice Patrick Le- Sage of the Superior Court of Justice said yesterday at a ceremony formally opening the courts for 2000.

There are only 3,000 outstanding criminal cases on Ontario trial lists, down from 6,000 this time five years ago, LeSage said.

Increased funding and bringing in outside judges to Toronto helped cut back the list, LeSage said.

Civil suits awaiting trial have been chopped from 24,000 in 1996 to 8,500 today.

Progress was hampered by three criminal trials that bogged down the system.

One was the Just Desserts murder trial, which dragged on for three years, ending in convictions of Lawrence Brown and Gary Francis for the shooting death of Georgina "Vivi" Leimonis.

Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry said the Ontario Court of Appeal made a "dramatic reduction" in its backlog, deciding 1,400 appeals last year.

Attorney General Jim Flaherty said delay is "the enemy" of an efficient justice system.

"Judges and lawyers are accountable, not only for the outcome of particular cases but for the performance of the system as a whole," he said.

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