Should We Defund the Civil Rules Committee in Ontario?

Past Ontario Bar Association president David Sterns argues that we should defund the Ontario Civil Rules Committee. In its place we should involve new voices and take an inter-disciplinary approach to building the committee. I agree. 

We need to either supplement or change the Civil Rules Committee. We must look towards engaging new people. Let’s not just tinker around the edges. Let’s engage new voices. We need new perspectives. We need to hear what lay people think. We need to hear the insight of experienced practitioners and judges. We need to hear what articling students and law students think. We need to hear what young lawyers think. We need to hear what program developers think. 

I am hopeful that we are on the path to great change. Recently, the Superior Court of Justice released a Notice to the Profession (click here). The Notice shows movement towards change in our courts.

For example, pre-trial records are now capped at 10 pages. No voluminous briefs are allowed. Voluminous records such as pleadings, treatment notes, accident benefit files, and so on, are not to be filed with the court by hyperlink, a dropbox, or otherwise. Parties may hyperlink to expert reports. The briefs are to be delivered electronically.

Additionally, motions are to be heard in writing as the default. Hopefully,  hearing motions in writing will nudge litigants away from old school tactics of litigating by instalments.  

Despite the extraordinary steps the Ontario courts have taken during COVID, we must go further. Requesting ad hoc submissions from the public is a good step. But, it is not enough. We must have a formalized and easy way for people to make suggestions for change. Such ideas could be:

  • A website dedicated to submissions for the Civil Rules Committee;
  • A Chatbot, linked to an existing or new website, to handle suggestions from interested individuals; or
  • An organized Zoom call, where people can opt-in to speaking, to the Civil Rules Committee. 

Whichever path forward is chosen, I am confident that hearing from a variety of perspectives will enhance the civil litigation process. 

(This article was originally posted on slaw.ca. Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)

heatherdouglaslaw.com  

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