Attorneys sometimes joke that magistrates are somehow lesser judicial officers compared to superior court judges. I have maintained that there are good quality magistrates on the bench and while there are a couple magistrates who could perhaps be better suited for an alternative vocation there are generally good people on the bench who work hard and who do their best to achieve a measure of justice.
Today I lost a little more faith in our magistrates. I have had two experiences which have really knocked my faith in our courts. The first incident is a request for default judgment which has been pending since November 2006. That is a three page document which, if there is a basis for default judgment (and there is), needs to be stamped with a cool looking stamp and sent back to me signifying that judgment has been granted. It really shouldn’t take over 4 months to deal with!
In another case I have had a specific application which I have been trying to enroll for argument and while there have been two postponements because of technical issues with service itself (and probably my fault), the case was postponed again today because a formulaic requirement in our rules of court was not complied with to the satisfaction of the court. While there may be non-compliance with the sub-rule (and I haven’t burrowed that deep yet), there is no point whatsoever postponing the matter again where there is no opposition whatsoever and the same application has been bouncing around for the last few months (each postponement is at least 2 weeks) so it isn’t even that the papers have been changing. No magistrate has taken a look at the merits of the application or even applied his/her mind to the manner in which the application has been set down. Instead there is a new issue each time around and at this rate the court might deal with the merits sometime in 2008, if I am lucky!
It is just crazy that there is such strict adherence to such rigid, formulaic rules where there is no reason for it. Delays in courts are increasing each year and we are basically at a point where it costs more in terms of time and money to litigate than any possible benefit (short of truly urgent applications or matters involving millions). How long until court cases take decades to resolve as a matter of routine? What will the point of that be?