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COVID bring some lighter moments in Lac La Biche courtroom

Phone connections create chances for legal levity

You're breaking up, your honour

LAC LA BICHE - For many, a day in court is no laughing matter. But in recent months as COVID restrictions have closed Alberta's provincial courtrooms to most of the public, the revised courtroom procedures have brought some smiles.

Pandemic restrictions now allow some people facing fines and charges to have their matters dealt over the phone, rather that in-person visits to the courtroom. Some area residents who missed their allotted times to be near their phones have found voicemail messages from the presiding judge.

"This is judge Ladouceur in Lac La Biche Provincial Court ..." has been the opening line of a message left several times by the Honourable Judge Ivan Ladouceur, even telling some they could be facing warrants for their arrests if they don't return his call.

On Feb. 8, after a few rings echoed in the courtroom, which is now viewed by lawyers and media through an online video platform, a person answered and seemed a little bewildered by the caller. The person, who was facing an assault charge, asked Ladouceur twice to repeat what he was calling for.

"Well, we aren't about to deliver you a pizza," Ladouceur joked before setting a new date for the man to enter his plea.

Later the same day, the court clerk put the judge through to a man looking to adjourn his court proceedings on two traffic tickets to a later date. Over the courtroom speakers, the man's voice kept cutting in and out as the phone connection got worse. 

"You're breaking up, your honour," the man said after asking to have his matter stood down to a March 8.

"Breaking up is hard to do," quipped Ladouceur with a laugh. "You gotta have some fun sometimes."

Ladouceur was appointed as a provincial court judge for the St. Paul area in 2016 and has been the presiding judge in the Lac La Biche Provincial Court for more than three years.