Judges and Justices of the Peace
There are 132 full-time equivalent Provincial Court Judges in Alberta (some Judges work full time and some work part time) as well as a number of supernumerary Judges who serve when required. In addition to Judges, the Court is served by more than 40 full time and part time Justices of the Peace.
The Chief Judge is the administrative head of the Court. A Deputy Chief Judge and nine Assistant Chief Judges assist the Chief.
The Provincial Court of Alberta consists of Criminal, Family & Youth and Civil divisions with 21 base points and 50 circuit points in the province. Typically, one or more Judges, the exact number depending on the size of the community and the area it serves, reside in one central location (the base point). The Judges sit there part of the time, and travel from there to smaller centres (circuit points). All Provincial Court Judges are able to sit at any location in Alberta. In smaller locations, the Court sits only on specific days of the week. Several of the base and circuit points are in Northern Alberta, where the Judge, Crown, and court staff travel by air to the circuit points to avoid long and dangerous trips by road.
Judges in Edmonton and Calgary belong to specific divisions: Criminal, Family and Youth or Civil, but all Judges are qualified to hear cases in all areas of the law. In very small centres where the court visits infrequently, all types of cases are set for the same day. Where the court sits two or three times per month, a specific day may be set aside for the hearing of civil matters only, or for family matters.
All criminal cases under federal statutes and all offences under provincial statutes and municipal bylaws are first brought before the Provincial Court. The Judge or Justice of the Peace hears evidence and arguments, weighs evidence, delivers judgment and, for certain offences, commits the case to the Court of Queen’s Bench for trial.
Provincial Court Judges also hear civil disputes under $50,000, family cases under the Family Law Act and child protection cases. They conduct judicial dispute resolution meetings (a type of mediation), hold pre-trial conferences, preside over ceremonies and spend time preparing for court and working on oral or written decisions.
The Provincial Court Act determines the administration of the Provincial Court of Alberta and the duties of its Judges.
Justices of the Peace
The Justice of the Peace Act and the Justice of the Peace Regulation set out the jurisdiction of the Justices of the Peace (often referred to as JPs).
Full-time and part-time Justices of the Peace currently sit in Traffic Court in Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie.
Justices of the Peace also sit in the Hearing Offices of Edmonton and Calgary. The Hearing Office in Calgary handles applications from Red Deer south to the border of the province. The Edmonton Hearing Office handles matters from north of Red Deer to the territorial border.
The Hearing Office in Edmonton hears matters from 8:00 AM to midnight 365 days a year. The Hearing Office in Calgary hears matters from 8:00 AM to midnight but also hears all emergency applications from around the province from midnight to 8:00 AM.
Duties of Justices of the Peace
Justices of the Peace handle a wide range of matters.
Duties at Edmonton and Calgary Hearing Offices:
- Receive Informations, consider and order process (warrant for arrest or summons); confirm or cancel police process.
- Issue subpoenas.
- Conduct bail hearings. All criminal offence bail matters have a first appearance at the Hearing Offices.
- Issue warrants as authorized by the Criminal Code.
- Hear and determine applications for sealing orders on search warrant and related applications.
- Consider applications for and authorize child apprehensions under the Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act and the Drug-Endangered Children Act.
- Consider applications for and grant "emergency protection orders" under the Protection Against Family Violence Act.
- Receive Informations from private complainants and set down for process hearing before a Provincial Court Judge.
- Take guilty pleas on most provincial offences and adjudicate accordingly.
Duties in Traffic Court
- Hear, try and determine matters arising under a prescribed list of provincial/municipal statutes.
- Preside in Edmonton and Calgary Traffic Courts; Regional base court and circuit court locations throughout Alberta as set out in the court calendar.
- Conduct trials, entertain guilty pleas, “set aside” applications and other specific related applications of provincial and municipal offences during normal court hours.
Justices of the Peace may not be assigned to hear, try or determine matters involving the death of any person, any complaint or information which involves a determination whether any rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been infringed or denied, any issue relating to the constitutional validity of any law, or any complaint or information which involves a determination of any aboriginal or treaty rights.
Justices of the Peace may not conduct preliminary inquiries or adjudicate summary conviction matters under the Criminal Code.
While Justices of the Peace are authorized to conduct hearings or settlement conferences or hear applications under Part 4 of the Provincial Court Act (Civil Claims), these duties have not been assigned to them by the Provincial Court.
The duties of Justices of the Peace have changed over time and will continue to change in the coming years.
Outside of Court duties, Judges and Justices of the Peace contribute to many public interest activities such as committees and boards, school tours of the courthouses or presentations at educational events.