Three or four times in the last week I have had discussions with various people on the issue of the versions of copies of court cases that are provided to the court in a book of authorities – are you required to provide a photocopy of the case from an official (or unofficial) print version of the case or is it acceptable to provide a printout of an online version from one of the commercial databases or from CanLII?
A decade or more ago – when online versions of judgments did not always format well or may not have contained paragraph numbering – I could see the reason to prefer copies of the print version. However, these factors are largely inapplicable today. The Supreme Court of Canada itself in a Notice to the Profession from an October
2006 2000 Bulletin (available here as pages 143-44 of a 149 page PDF document) specifically acknowledged the acceptability of electronic versions of their decisions (and decisions of other courts) in these terms:
In recent years, electronic legal research databases have come to be relied upon extensively by the legal profession. The Court makes electronic versions of Supreme Court judgments available on the Internet through a direct link from its website (www.scc-csc.gc.ca).To make Supreme Court of Canada judgments easier to reference, on January 1, 2000, the Court started using the neutral citation standard on its judgments. The neutral citation (for example, Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island, 2000 SCC 1) is assigned to each decision as it is rendered.
The following guidelines are given to assist counsel in preparing memorandums of argument, factums and books of authorities:
1. When citing Supreme Court of Canada decisions, please use the Supreme Court Reports (S.C.R.) citation.
2. Supreme Court decisions rendered after January 1, 1995 may be cited to an electronic version if the paragraph numbering of the electronic version is consistent with the numbering adopted by the Court. The S.C.R. citation should be provided followed by the electronic version reference. For decisions not yet reported in the S.C.R., the neutral citation should be provided followed by the electronic version reference.
Counsel may cite decisions from other courts using print sources or reliable electronic databases.
When a decision is cited to an electronic version, paragraph numbers should be used for pinpoint references.
3. A printout of the relevant excerpts of all documents cited electronically must be provided in counsel’s book of authorities.
If the Supreme Court of Canada allows it, it makes it difficult for judges of lower courts to somehow insist on print versions (and my suspicion is that it is not necessarily the lower court judges insisting on this but “older” lawyers not adjusting as easily to the new format). The one exception I am prepared to make in favour of print over online is where the online version does not have paragraph numbering.
If SLAW readers are aware of other notices to the profession from other courts on this point of the acceptability of online versus print judgments, I would welcome comments in that regard.