The Case of The Missing Court Documents

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Over the past year, I have called for innovation within the court system (http://bit.ly/1W0Fsad).

In Romspen Investment Corp. v. 6176666 Canada Ltée., 2012 ONSC 1727, Justice Brown calls on judges, as the ultimate stewards of our justice system, to pressure the government into adopting a new document management system.

His appeal for change unfolds in a story about missing court documents. On one sunny winter day, he arrived at a court hearing to find that he was missing sealed documents. The documents were in paper format and not in electronic versions, meaning that he could not simply go onto a website, type in the file name, and retrieve all documents pertaining to the hearing.

Unfortunately, counsel neglected to bring duplicates of the missing documents. This led to an hour delay spent retrieving them.

Instead of blaming counsel for not anticipating the failure of the Court’s paper system. Justice Brown pointed the finger at the government. He fittingly asked why should people “have to act on the assumption that whatever they did before, whatever they filed before, will go for naught?” This is not cost-efficient access to justice.

[13]           The real solution?  Consign our paper-based document management system to the scrap heap of history and equip this Court with a modern, electronic document system…

[15]           And what if our Court had a system under which documents were filed electronically and accessible to judges and others through a web-based system, with sealed documents specially encrypted to limit access to judges only?

[16]           Yes, Virginia, somewhere, someone must have created such a system, and perhaps sometime, in an another decade or so, rumours of such a possibility may waft into the paper-strewn corridors of the Court Services Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General and a slow awakening may occur. [emphasis added]

Lawyers and judges need to continuously keep the scandalous state of this Court’s document management and case scheduling systems on the government’s radar screens. Hopefully, then the government will loosen the purse strings.

Why should we care?

We operate in a democracy. Court proceedings must be public. This extends to material used in court hearings. With the ascent of the Internet, in order for something to be considered truly public in today’s age, it must be available online by the touch of a button.

Read the full case here: http://bit.ly/1NiTix1

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