by The Honourable Wally Oppal, QC
Since release of the November 2006 report, Effective and Affordable Civil Justice, Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel , QC and Chief Justice Donald Brenner have travelled across B.C., consulting about justice reform generally and, more specifically, about proposed new civil rules of procedure.
Feedback from lawyers, law firms, Bar associations, CBA Sections, chambers of commerce, service clubs, law schools, and other organizations to the over 40 information and consultation sessions they have hosted, has generally been positive. Final drafting of the proposed new rules is underway, with useful input from the rules revision committee.
As background for those of you who haven’t participated in the consultations, the Civil Justice Reform Working Group Report envisions a justice system that provides everyone, regardless of their means, with access to civil justice. The Report can be found on the B.C. Justice Reform Task Force website at: www.bcjusticereview.org/. (A summary of the ministry’s other justice reform initiatives can be found at:www.ag.gov.bc.ca/justice-reform-initiatives/index.htm.)
A key Working Group recommendation was that British Columbia’s civil rules should be reviewed and rewritten based on the principles in the report: proportionality, matching the process to the type of case, increased judicial involvement in case management, an expanded role for lawyers and preservation of the rule of law.
The result is expected to be a streamlined, more accessible Supreme Court system. We want a justice system where matters that can be settled are settled quickly and affordably, and matters that need a trial move through the courts in a timely manner.
It is very difficult to summarize changes to 400 pages of civil rules in a paragraph. Interested readers may want to consult the civil rules online consultation forum at: www.bcjusticereviewforum.ca/civilrules/ for more detail. Briefly, it is fair to say the new civil rules will:
- adopt a new case initiation and defence process that requires parties to accurately and succinctly state the facts and issues in dispute;
- require the parties to provide a plan for conducting the case and achieving a resolution;
- limit discovery, while requiring early disclosure of key information;
- limit the parameters of expert evidence;
- streamline motion practice;
- consolidate all three regulations regarding the notice to mediate into one rule under the Supreme Court Rules; and
- provide the judiciary with power to make orders to streamline the trial process.
We anticipate the new civil rules will be ready for Cabinet consideration in 2008 and, if Cabinet approves, they will come into force in 2010. This will allow time for the Bar, the judiciary, the public and the court system to prepare for the changes.
I will keep you informed as the changes to the civil rules progress.
The Honourable Wally Oppal, QC, Attorney General and Minister, Responsible for Multiculturalism
This article was published in the April 2008 issue of BarTalk. © 2008 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.