Have You Read 2011’s Top Cases?

Subjective top ten lists are great for starting arguments given the improbability of any two people sharing precisely the same worldview. It’s a little tougher to engender heated debate over objectively measured top ten lists, but not impossible. After all, we can still dispute methodology and relevance! I invite Slaw readers to infer meaning and to offer analysis of the results.

So with that, I’m pleased to present for 2011 the top 10 most consulted cases on CanLII.

  1. Bruni v. Bruni, 2010 ONSC 6568
  2. Indalex Limited (Re), 2011 ONCA 265
  3. Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9
  4. Bedford v. Canada, 2010 ONSC 4264
  5. R. v. Grant, 2009 SCC 32
  6. Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10
  7. R. v. Oakes, 1986 CanLII 46 (SCC), [1986] 1 SCR 103
  8. R. v. Stinchcombe, 1991 CanLII 45 (SCC), [1991] 3 SCR 326
  9. Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 CanLII 699 (SCC), [1999] 2 SCR 817
  10. Reference re Secession of Quebec, 1998 CanLII 793 (SCC), [1998] 2 SCR 217

Bruni rated 18,641 views and the Secession Reference came in at 5,105.

To get a sense of scale, compare these numbers with the 1000th most consulted case – which still attracted nearly 500 views.

Graphically, the results of the top 1000 most consulted cases present as a “long tail” (or for the mathematically inclined, as an asymptote).

(Click on image to enlarge)

Among cases actually decided in 2011, the top 10 looks like this:

  1. Indalex Limited (Re), 2011 ONCA 265
  2. Kerr v. Baranow, 2011 SCC 10
  3. JM (Re), 2011 CanLII 7955 (ON CCB)
  4. Century 21 Canada Limited Partnership v. Rogers Communications Inc., 2011 BCSC 1196
  5. United Food and Commercial Workers’ International Union, Local 1518 v. British Columbia (Labour Relations Board), 2011 BCSC 455
  6. Voltage Pictures LLC c. Untel, 2011 CF 1024
  7. Ontario (Attorney General) v. Fraser, 2011 SCC 20
  8. R. v. J.A., 2011 SCC 28
  9. Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Assoc. v. Seung Jin Oh, 2011 ONSC 6991
  10. Withler v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 12

Indalex amassed a remarkable 17,433 views and Withler a respectable 2,825.

The graphical representation of the top 1000 among cases decided in 2011 is indistinguishable from the above chart (save for the Bruni peak). The honour of 1000th most consulted case falls to Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation v. Alberta (Minister of Energy), 2011 ABCA 29 with 341 views.

Background and miscellanea: 

  • CanLII’s operations have been continuously funded by Canada’s provincial and territorial law societies (and by extension, Canada’s lawyers and notaries) since 2000 to allow legal professionals and the public to access primary legal information at no direct cost.
  • CanLII’s database contains over 1 million documents and is on track to a record year of receiving nearly 7 million visits and delivering over 80 million page views
  • While most documents on CanLII are decisions of courts and tribunals, page views of legislation and regulation outstrip page views of cases by a sizeable margin. For example, monthly Criminal Code page views exceed 20,000 and monthly views of the Code civil du Québec exceed 15,000.
  • CanLII is widely used by the legal profession (over 95% of lawyers responding to our fall mini-survey reported at least weekly use), but as a freely available tool its non-lawyer users are legion. Monthly unique visitors are routinely over 200,000. Consequently, the results might be considered a barometer of public interest, as well and possibly more so, than as one of legal significance.
  • A “view” or “consultation” of a document is measured as the interaction of an individual with the case URL. Mere appearance of a case in a list of search results will not constitute a view, but opening it to inspect it will. Similarly, where a user subscribes to RSS feeds and a case appears in the list, the case view does not take place until it is opened.
  • Results above aggregate views for a given decision across formats (PDF or HTML) and across French and English.
  • No French language case cracked the overall top 10, but one, Voltage, ranked among decisions issued in 2011. Originally issued in French, and subsequently released in English as well, French language views alone would have placed this case at number 7
  • Standings measured as of December 20th. If it turns out that thousands of Canadians spend the holidays reviewing the December 22nd SCC decision on the Securities Reference, I will gladly update the list accordingly so that historians might have an accurate record of the case law that most concerned Canadians in 2011.

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