Service and Filing by Email: Courts Are Being Forced to Adapt

In March 2020, courts across Canada have been forced to confront issues arising from social distancing measures. The Supreme Court of Canada is now allowing documents to be filed by email, with original paper copies to be filed subsequently at a later date. Further information can be found here.

Similarly, the Ontario Court of Appeal is allowing material to be filed by email. More information can be found here.

In Morris v Onca, 2020 ONSC 1690, Justice Myers dealt with an urgent matter, wherein he allowed material to be filed by email. In this case, the judgment creditor alleged she was at risk of the judgment debtors moving assets abroad to avoid paying her back. The case conference was scheduled to proceed on Monday, March 23, 2020.

In anticipation of the case conference, Justice Myers ordered that materials for the motion be filed by email to the Motions Coordinator in searchable PDF Format, copying all parties. Service of the materials could be made without acknowledgment of receipt for email service. No Books of Authority or statutory materials were to be sent. References to case law or statutes could be made by hyperlink to CanLII. The motion was to be heard by Skype or Microsoft Teams.

Justice Myers’ reasonable solution should be copied by other judges. We should consider extending this approach beyond the COVID-19 crisis. We should take a hard look at how paper moves through our courts and how we can eliminate paper.

Our court rules should be revised to facilitate service and filing by email. Serving and filing by paper should be the exception. Ideally, our courts will eventually have electronic files that can obviate the need for email and instead litigants and judges can upload documents to the file.

(Views are my own and do not represent the views of any organization.)

 

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