Changes (Oh Look Out You Rock and Rollers)

There is a certain foreboding in this David Bowie lyric. The song warns those in power of an emerging class that will replace them.

There are parallels in the modern world of the administration of civil justice.

The need for civil justice is as strong as ever. But although the core qualities of our civil justice system are beyond reproach, some of our machinery for delivering it is rusty and inefficient. This drives up the cost for the individuals and businesses that need it and hurts the image of the bench and bar.

The irony is that we are more able to deliver efficient machinery for the administration of justice than at any time in our past, thanks to the advances in technology.

There has been recent and volubile judicial criticism of the lack of resources committed by the government. Although there are complicated security, cost and other issues surrounding the implementation of software that allows direct public access, e.g. on-line booking and document filing and retrieval systems, one area for improvement requires nothing more than already existing email facilities.

I am referring to the service of material between parties.

In most civil cases lawyers still create hard copies of evidentiary records, books of authorities and factums. These are printed and bound and given to couriers who lug them about the city and beyond, spending hours lining up at court offices across the province to serve and file them.

This still goes on in matters on the Superior Court general list even though judges frequently request material in electronic format.

A particularly irritating example is books of authorities. Very often hard copies of these delivered by different parties contain several of the same cases.

Not only is it wasteful and expensive to copy (a lengthy case such as Combined Aircosts about $25 per copy), it creates storage costs, and it is useless. Judges and counsel all have online access to the cases. All they need is the link and the paragraph numbers. It is true that highlighting cases can be very helpful. But that of course can be done electronically.

While there are many advantages to having hard copies of certain documents in court, that is a choice that parties should be able to make, at their own cost.

We make a fetish of service of documents, even where all parties are represented. The rules requiring service of hard copies or faxes of factums and records are hopelessly out of date, and unnecessary in the vast majority of cases. They drive up cost.

This issue is a small example on inefficiency and waste. But why tolerate it?

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