The Honourable Mr. Justice Victor Paisley

Ontario Superior Court

This court is generally considered to be the province's elite arena for criminal trials, but justice Paisley seems determined to singlehandedly undermine that reputation with his wayward insistence on efficiency at any cost.

Two years ago, after being appointed a senior administrative judge, Paisley drew flak from both crown and defense attorneys for establishing an unwritten rule requiring that matters before him be wrapped up within 90 days.

In the course of running his judicial assembly line, Paisley threw out one case when a Crown attorney failed to show for trial at the scheduled time. The case was no trivial matter -- the accused was facing two charges of child molestation.

Around the same time, Paisley ordered another Crown to proceed with a case involving extortion and kidnapping even though the defendant's lawyer wasn't present.

Another defendant complained about being forced to enter a plea even though her lawyer was at another trial defending a murder suspect.

Paisley was recently embarrassed when the court of appeal overturned one of his decisions, taking the unusual step of referring to him by name in its ruling, a move that is taken to be a sign of displeasure against a trial judge.

The case involves a man accused of sexually assaulting his step-daughter several years ago. On the day of his trial, the man called his lawyer to say that he had strep throat and to ask whether he ought to come to court.

His lawyer advised him not to, but Paisley responded by issuing a bench warrant against the man and having him taken into custody when he showed up in court the next day, even though he had a note from his doctor.

Stating that the man had provided no evidence indicating that he was ill, Paisley subsequently ruled that the defendant had, by his action, forfeited his right to a jury trial.

The man's lawyer responded with a motion asking Paisley to remove himself from the trial, but Paisley turned down the motion.

The court of appeal, which granted the defendant a new trial, ruled Paisley had deprived the man of his constitutional rights by denying him a jury trial, erred by determining there was no evidence of sickness and failed to enhance the "appearance of fairness'' by ordering the man jailed though the Crown was not seeking his detention.

Paisley, for his part, argued that he didn't want to take himself off the case because he wanted to ensure that is was -- wait for it -- tried within a reasonable period of time.