In what is very welcome news, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has released a practice direction, effective 1 October 2011, authorizing the use of reliable online versions of court decisions for filing in books of authorities and providing for special citation rules:
Practice Direction Regarding Filing of Judicial Decisions from Electronic Databases, and Regarding Citation of All Judicial Decisions
Judicial Decisions from Electronic Databases
Effective October 1, 2011, copies of judicial decisions obtained from approved electronic databases are acceptable for filing provided the report of the judicial decision contains paragraph numeration consistent with the numbering of the paragraphs in the decision as released by the court. “Approved electronic databases” are databases that are dedicated to the publication of judicial decisions (e.g. Quicklaw, CanLII).
Parties should be aware that judicial decisions posted on electronic databases may be subject to correction or editing within a few days of the initial posting and, accordingly, parties should ensure that any decision obtained from an electronic database has not been subsequently amended.
Citation of All Judicial Decisions
Parties citing decisions from electronic databases should provide the citations for any paper versions of the decision in addition to the citation of the electronic database.
Parties should provide the date that the copy of any decision was obtained from an electronic database, as part of the citation information.
For decisions of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released on or after January 1, 2010, parties should provide the neutral citation number (e.g. 2010 ONSC 1) in addition to the other required citations.
Osgoode Hall, Toronto
September 1, 2011
The Honourable Heather Forster Smith
Chief Justice, Superior Court of Justice
A few comments:
- “Approved electronic databases“: The practice direction unfortunately gives what I assume is an unintentional, inadvertent limited view of examples by mentioning only Quicklaw or CanLII as approved electronic databases. Ideally, the practice direction would have preferred or encouraged the use of CanLII, where available, and then either referred more generically to the commercial databases or to include a more exhaustive listing (e.g., Westlaw Canada, BestCase, Maritime Law Book, SOQUIJ, DCL/REJB, and so on) or simply identified the major legal publishers as opposed to specific databases.
- Citation: I don’t think I have a problem with including both a citation to the print-published version of a decision (if available) along with the online citation. I do find it interesting (and different) for the court to require “the date that the copy of any decision was obtained from an electronic database.” If the court was going to otherwise change McGill Guide style, I would have liked if they had gone further to provide that, for decisions on CanLII, citing the neutral citation alone would be sufficient. In addition, the practice direction is ambiguous in its example of citing to the neutral citation for Ontario Superior Court decisions. A more preferable practice direction would have stated something along the lines that counsel are encouraged to file decisions from CanLII from all courts (not just Ontario) and when so doing may include only the neutral citation.
Despite these nit-picks, all-in-all this is a welcome and long overdue development.