Ontario Introduces CaseLines to Courts

Following the Civil Submissions Online and Family Submissions Online portals, first introduced starting in 2017, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice announced on July 29, 2020 that a two-week test phase of CaseLines will be launched on Aug. 10, 2020 for select civil motions and pre-trial conferences. The Online Portal will not be integrated with CaseLines at this time.

Starting Aug. 24, 2020, CaseLines use will be expanded to all civil, Divisional Court, Commercial and Estate List, and bankruptcy matters in Toronto. After that, it will be expanded to the rest of the province.

The new CaseLines service will replace the practice in Ontario during COVID-19 of emailing civil and family documents to the generic Court Services Division emails.

William G. MacLeod Q.C. and Kate Gower previous described here on Slaw the use of CaseLines in B.C. during the pandemic. Elsewhere, they describe their use CaseLines in the first case in Canada in Hutchison v. Moore, where Justice Dev Dley ordered it be used even prior to the pandemic.

This was soon followed by its use in Nuchatlaht v British Columbia, the first use of CaseLines in a chambers application, where the significant amount of documents were streamlined through the online cloud-based platform.

In other cases, the firm has utilized an Electronic Trial Plan in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice when employing eTrial Toolkit, which might be useful for other parties who are now adopting e-trials. The Advocates’ Society’s Paperless Trials Manual may also be of use.

E-trials have occurred across Canada in past years, albeit using different legal platforms. Katrina Marciniak and Michael Wilchesky state in 2013 in The Litigator,

Electronic trials (also affectionately known as “E-Trials”) are rare in Ontario. Aside from the fact that our courtrooms are not physically designed to facilitate E-Trials, most of the blame can be attributed to the fact that technology can e intimidating, especially to more senior lawyers or judges who aren’t particularly tech savvy. However, counsel need to adapt to the times, look fear in the eye and take the plunge into the world of E-Trials. The benefits are significant, and the experience is contagious.

Contagions of a different kind have forced the bar to take the plunge in 2020, but some adaptation to practice will necessarily have to occur.

Ontario courts will require document naming conventions for files uploaded to CaseLines, similar to this format:

Notice of Motion-Moving Party 14-JUL-2020

Notice of Application-Applicant 21-NOV-2020

Statement of Defence-Defendant 02-JAN-2021

Compendium-Responding Party 03-MAR-2021

Factum-Intervenor 11-NOV-2020

A free Zoom training (passcode 579037) is being held by the courts on Monday, August 10, 2020 at 10:00am. The Advocates Society is also holding an information session on Aug. 13 at noon. Further training by the courts is expected by the end of the month.

I’m just hoping someone can explain if I am a Barrister, Solicitor, or Counsel. I can’t be all three simultaneously, at least according to CaseLines.

 

Comments

  1. I think electronic filing, documents, and most trial procedures are long overdue, and like many, hope the Covid-19 crisis will have a spillover benefit of giving the courts and legal profession the kick they need to move into the 21st century. Its more efficient, easier to track, and hopefully, cheaper for attorneys, taxpayers, and most of all, clients and anyone who hopes “A2J” will be more than an acronym.

    Just a thought – its a bit early in the law tech adoption days in Ontario, but I’d like to see the courts and profession develop some technical standards around electronic filing and document exchange, so that can be many providers of services. Sort of like a API specification with an SDK, for those techies who understand that language. That would open up the field to multiple competitive providers and fosters innovation of legal services as a whole – and maybe new divisions at law firms or specialty service providers.

    I’m sure the industry will evolve and grow. As it is today – early days – we have big general services players like Thomson-Reuters that everyone knows. In the case of the E-trial Toolkit, it appears to be developed and provided by the sister company of an Ottawa law firm (similar name and address). Kudos to them for taking the initiative, but what if you have client conflicts? There is a reason we have many law firms, and given that these e-legal companies are handling client information, and/or might also encompass related legal services like e-discovery or document review, if they get conflicted out, its important to have other service provider options too.

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