The Supreme Court of Canada made amendments to its rules on Wednesday, which will come into force on Jan. 15 and apply to all cases. The changes aim to increase the Court’s efficiency, in part through the use of technology, and reduce costs and labour to lawyers and the public alike in requesting documents or filing notices.
In a news release, the Court’s registrar said the amendments would, “amongst other things, enhance the efficacy of the Court’s leave application and appeal processes, including for the scheduling of hearings and the publication of reasons in appeals involving sealing orders, confidentiality orders and publication bans. They will also allow parties to serve originating documents electronically and to include hyperlinks in leave materials.”
Ewa Krajewska, a partner in appellate advocacy at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Toronto, welcomes the changes, which she describes as “a moderate modernization of the rules” that has evolved “gradually” over the years.
“When I started to practice, you could only serve materials by email if you had permission from the other side,” says Krajewska, who was called to the bar in Ontario in 2009. Otherwise, “you had to deliver hard copies.” And the cost savings that electronic document delivery (over photocopying and faxing) will bring to public interest groups, for example, will be “huge.”
In an emailed statement, SCC registrar Roger Bilodeau said that “the Supreme Court has taken an incremental approach to introducing electronic documents and case management using electronic documents, and the amendments to the Rules have reflected that approach.”
“The Supreme Court of Canada keeps pace with emerging technologies and tools and continually reviews its processes to ensure that the Rules allow the most effective means of managing cases,” Bilodeau told Legal Feeds. “The Court consults lawyers and agents on proposed changes through bench and bar committees, and through those committees will receive and consider suggestions for amendments from lawyers.
“We anticipate that these amendments will simplify or expedite the filing process and will improve access to court information and case files, for the parties, lawyers and members of the public.”
Bilodeau cites the amendment to Rule 20 that permits the electronic service of originating documents, “which will be more efficient and cost effective for litigants,” and the amendment to Rule 25 that will allow parties to a leave application to insert hyperlinks to an electronic version of an authority instead of reproducing the authority. “This will reduce the size of the leave application, and allow the Court to retrieve the document easily.”
Changes to Rules 49 and 50 will allow for a single response that addresses all motions for leave to intervene in an appeal, instead of filing a separate response to each motion, Bilodeau noted. “This will be more efficient, and reflects the Court’s practice to decide all motions for leave to intervene in an appeal at the same time.”
These amendments will also simplify matters for counsel, says Krajewska; Rule 49 (1.1) dictates that “the response to a motion for intervention must be served and filed within 10 days after service of the last motion to which the response relates” (emphasis added), rather than after the service of each motion, which “makes it more efficient and streamlined,” she says.
Rule 14 will also create efficiency, she says, in eliminating the need to refile the notice of name of party in both official languages each time a notice is filed. Now, “The party or intervener filing the notice of name may request that the Registrar consider the notice as permanent, to be applied to all other matters involving the party or intervener,” the amended rule reads. This will save time and reduce paperwork, says Krajewska.
Bilodeau also notes that “the changes to the Tariffs will eliminate the fees currently charged for obtaining copies of electronic documents, which will benefit the public.”
Krajewska also sees sole practitioners as particular beneficiaries of the changes to tariffs, as lawyers and members of the public used to have to pay 50 cents per document per page, she says.
“Now, … for any electronic documents, you no longer have to pay a fee. It goes with the theme of the chief justice, trying to modernize the court, and make it more efficient,” she adds; “I would see a lot of these changes going in that direction.”
The amendments announced yesterday came through the Court’s regular review of its rules, with the previous amendments coming into force in January 2017, Bilodeau said. The Guide to the 2019 Amendments to the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada can be found on the Supreme Court’s website.