Federal Court launches pilot project for online access to court records

The pilot project began operating on September 12

Federal Court launches pilot project for online access to court records

As part of its ongoing commitment to the open court principle, the Federal Court recently launched a pilot project to provide online access to court records.

According to the Federal Court, litigants and the public will now access certain court records directly through its website rather than contacting the court staff to request records from the registry. The pilot project began operating on September 12.

The Federal Court confirmed that the pilot project consists of several phases. As part of the first phase, only records in the following categories have been made available online:

  1. Pleadings (e.g., statements of claim and defence, notices of application, notices of motion, notices of appeal) and written arguments (e.g., written representations, memoranda of fact and law) filed by parties through the court’s e-filing portal in matters that are:
    • commenced on or after September 12;
    • in the areas of maritime and admiralty, class actions, Indigenous law, and intellectual property;
    • not subject to a confidentiality or other sealing order.
  2. Court-generated documents (e.g., orders, directions, reasons, judgments)

Documents eligible for online access will only become available three business days after parties file them electronically. The three-business-day delay aims to permit appropriate document processing by the registry and authorize the person or party submitting a document to correct any errors in the filing.

A party may request that a document be exempted from online access despite the open court principle. Parties and counsel filing documents through the e-filing portal will be required to indicate if a request is being made, and if so, file their request with the document. Other parties will be allowed to respond within five days of filing the request.

“Given the importance of the open court principle, parties seeking an exemption will bear the onus to demonstrate that it is justified in the circumstances,” the Federal Court said.

If the request is granted, the Federal Court may order a party to file a version of the document that could be posted online. While the document is exempted from online posting, it will not be automatically considered confidential.

“Only a confidentiality order renders a document confidential and not available to the public,” the Federal Court said. “An exemption from online access simply means that the document will not be available for download from the Federal Court’s website. The document will still be available in the ordinary course from the registry.”

If a party believes a document is confidential and should not be available to the public, they may file a motion seeking a confidentiality order under rule 151 of the Federal Courts Rules. According to the Federal Court, this process has not been affected by the pilot project.

Further information regarding the pilot project is available here.

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