This week the Ontario government has rolled out phase 1 for e-filing. Phase 1 of the e-filing project enables documents that initiate a civil proceeding in the Superior Court of Justice to be issued online and to be paid online.
The pilot project has been launched in five cities: Brampton, Ottawa, London, Newmarket and Sudbury. A province-wide rollout of Phase 1 is planned for later this year. Phase 2 of the project will allow for additional documents to be filed online.
This is fantastic news. By incrementally addressing problems we can begin to modernize our courts. Our courts need to be modernized. The courts are a service to the public. While this service has distinct attributes (like constitutional status, a branch of our government, upholder of the rule of law, and so on), at its heart it is a service. And as a service, it must adapt.
To quote, Brown J. (currently on the Ontario Court of Appeal, then a judge of the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto) in Bank of Montreal v Faibish, 2014 ONSC 2178:
 Providers of music to the public have had to adapt to changes in technology in order to continue to provide their particular service. Why should courts and lawyers be any different? Why should we be able to expect that treating courts like some kind of fossilized Jurassic Park will enable them to continue to provide a most needed service to the public in a way the public respects? How many wake-up calls do the legal profession and the court system need before both look around and discover that they have become irrelevant museum pieces?
 Our Court must choose: are we a Court of the Past or a Court of the Future? I vote for a Court of the Future, and therefore I will not accept counsel’s suggestion that the six-week trial for this complex commercial litigation on the Toronto Region Commercial List proceed using both paper and digital information. I know there are judges available who are chomping at the bit to conduct more e-trials. Paper must vanish from this Court and, frankly, the judiciary cannot let the legal profession or our court service provider hold us back….
I hope that this is the first step towards building electronic court files that can be accessed electronically by the parties and judges. “Paper must vanish from this Court”.
(Views are my own, and do not reflect the views of any organization.)