Judge sets 12 accused criminals free because of prosecutor

Newmarket Judge Howard Chisvin let 12 accused criminals go free when a prosecutor arrived late. His hasty decision has become the subject of much criticism, especially since Chisvin frequently shows up late to court himself.

On Wednesday, the Toronto Star began keeping track of Judge Howard Chisvin’s timeliness after he made a controversial decision to let a dozen accused criminals go free when assistant Crown Attorney Brian McCallion was 1 min and 27 seconds late returning to court on July 21.

Chisvin dismissed the provincial cases “for want of prosecution,” even though some of the accused had already pleaded guilty and were waiting for sentencing.

The Star found that Chisvin started the morning court session 2 minutes and 7 seconds late and was late returning from every single break throughout the day by times ranging from 9 seconds to 19 min and 22 seconds.

Not surprisingly, Chisvin had valid excuses for his own tardiness (technical issues with recorders, courtroom transfers and informal pre-trial discussions), yet sometimes he had no excuse at all.

Judge Chisvin’s blatant hypocrisy makes me particularly uneasy. It’s frightening that a judge, whose job it is to weigh both sides of an argument, refused to even hear why McCallion had been so minimally late. Like the judge himself, the prosecutor may have run into technical difficulties pertaining to his job or had a family emergency that forced him to leave the house/office/car/subway just 1 min and 27 seconds too late. A leeway in these circumstances would be wholly appropriate if not for any other reason than the fact that time can vary from clock to clock. 

The even scarier issue is that Chisvin let 12 people free without a seeming yo have a second thought. The fact that he allowed individuals, who had already pleaded guilty and were awaiting sentencing, to just walk away is an indication of something much more troubling than a lack of judgment on his part. No matter what the magnitude of the crime, it is in the interest of the public for the Chisvin to do his job and hear both sides of the case before dismissing anyone.

Judge Chisvin’s behavior is a terrible example of how one person can abuse a system. I could try to understand why he acted in such an impulsive and irrational manner (bad day, power trip, personal grudge against prosecutor, needs a vacation), but the job he willingly accepted requires him to put all personal matters aside and make impartial decisions based off of the facts presented.  We can’t afford for him to makes such hypocritical and unreasonable judgments because they inevitably affect us all.

I wonder what, if anything, can be done to make sure this kind of judicial malfeasance doesn’t happen again.