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B.C. aiming to make appellate court rules and procedures clearer, easier to navigate

Thursday, December 05, 2019 @ 12:01 PM | By Ian Burns

B.C. is looking for the public’s input on proposed changes to the rules and procedures of the provincial Court of Appeal, saying the current rules are out of date and confusing to both litigants and lawyers alike.

The Ministry of the Attorney General is proposing amendments to the Court of Appeal Act and the Court of Appeal Rules. The most recent revision of the Act and rules occurred in 1996 and, as a result, the government says modernization is needed. The government said the proposed changes are “intended to clarify and create efficiencies by simplifying procedures and improving access to justice for litigants in the B.C. Court of Appeal.”

Shelley Gin, acting senior policy adviser with the Ministry, said as a result of the numerous amendments to the Act and rules over the years, the court processes have been encoded in several different places and the changes are intended to “make it easy for court users to find what they are looking for.”

“Right now, for example, if you are litigant looking to go to the Court of Appeal to appeal a file, you have to look at several different resources in order to make sure that you navigate the system and bring your appeal the proper way,” she said. “The proposed rules consolidate the information to take a user-centred approach to provide a more comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide for the appellate process.”

The proposed changes cover three key areas: the reorganization of the content of the Act and rules so that all general powers reside in the Act and all aspects of procedure are found in the rules; simplifying procedures for court users by adding clarity to sections that were not articulated or consistently misunderstood; and redesigning civil forms to ensure they are more readable and understandable.

Gin said the intent is to make it easier to come before the court for both lawyers and self-represented litigants. In its 2018 annual report, the court noted just over 25 per cent of civil appeals and applications for leave to appeal, and approximately one-third of those related to family matters, involve at least one self-represented litigant, numbers it calls “troublingly high.”

“And many times lawyers are not exactly sure where they should be looking for certain pieces of information, and then they have to go back and look at the rules, and then they flip back to the Act and the practice directives,” she said. “That can be quite confusing if you don’t know where to look.”

Feedback can be provided at until 4 p.m. on Dec. 6. Gin said the feedback will be reviewed and considered in the finalizing of the Act and the rules, and will also be reviewed by Court of Appeal rules committee and the overall court as well.

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