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Rural circuit courts to be merged

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The Selinger government wants to get more bang for its buck out of its provincial courts by reducing several rural circuit courts.

Justice Minister Andrew Swan said Monday the change is part of the NDP’s efforts to streamline court operations. Last week, the government said it was moving to use more electronic documents to reduce the paperwork that often clogs the system.

Swan said a recent review of circuit courts showed that by consolidating some of them, cases could be heard more quickly and judges could put in a full day at each location dealing with fuller dockets.

"We know there are a number of circuit courts in Manitoba that are under-utilized," Swan said. "They don’t sit for a full day. In some cases they don’t even sit for half a day. When those circuit days are booked, it means we lose the judge, we lose the Crown attorney, we lose the rest of that court party for that entire day. We want to maximize the resources."

The changes mean: Killarney court dates will be heard in Boissevain; Neepawa court dates will be heard in Minnedosa; Amaranth court dates will be heard in Sandy Bay; Carman court dates will be heard in Morden; Morris court dates will be heard in Emerson; Lac du Bonnet court dates will be heard in Beausejour and Teulon court dates will be heard in Stonewall.

"We’ve made sure that in of these cases where there is a consolidation it’s a town nearby," Swan said, adding the additional driving distance is 30 to 40 kilometres to attend a larger court.

The changes take effect as soon as possible, given existing court schedules, Swan said.

He added the consolidation will also partly address the growing pressure on limited provincial court resources, including on judges.

"It’s been made pretty clear to us that if we can have that judge sitting in a larger community that will provide a full day’s work that means we can get more cases through the system, it means we can get more efficiency out of our judges, Crown attorneys, Legal Aid lawyers and of course all the clerks and sheriffs and everybody else who make our courts work."

History

Updated on Monday, December 3, 2012 at 3:55 PM CST: Added link

4:08 PM: Added CP info

4:09 PM: update

4:14 PM: Update

4:17 PM: removed link

6:18 PM: Adds additional info, quotes, changes headline

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