ALBERTA

Alberta Doubles Limit For Small Claims Court Cases

07/21/2014 01:39 EDT | Updated 09/20/2014 05:59 EDT
JacobStudio via Getty Images
CALGARY - Alberta is doubling the dollar limit for small claims court in an effort to allow people more access and to free up judges.

Justice Minister Jonathan Denis says that starting Aug. 1, the limit will double to $50,000 from $25,000.

Denis says that should help people complete straightforward civil matters in a much shorter time.

However, the NDP says the government should take meaningful steps to improve access to the provincial justice system, including properly funding Legal Aid.

"Alberta provincial courts are already overloaded," said New Democrat MLA David Eggen.

"This increase will only invite an influx of complex, time-consuming cases into a system that is already struggling to keep up. The problem is exacerbated by the number of people representing themselves in these complex cases.

"Now we're talking about $50,000 lawsuits that require a significant amount of research and knowledge of the law. Many of those litigants will require frequent guidance from the courts, and need to have hearings re-scheduled as they try to navigate the system."

Last week, Legal Aid Alberta announced it would be cutting drop-in services from most Alberta communities, a move which is expected to save $4 million over three years.

"This PC government can't be trusted to stand up for Albertans and to protect their rights in the justice system," Eggen said. "The announcement today is just another short-sighted fix for a crisis that wouldn't exist if the PCs funded Alberta's essential services properly in the first place."

The province is also setting up a provincial court pilot project to help Albertans resolve civil legal disputes.

The intent is to direct civil claims to appropriate areas for quick and efficient resolution.

Denis says he is not adding any new judges — at least not immediately.

(CHQR)

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