COVID-19’s Effect on Court Filing

The Pandemic has changed many facets of our daily lives and our economy as a whole. Many individuals and businesses have had to adapt in order to be able to keep up with the many regulations and restrictions that have been imposed due to COVID-19. 

The Court system is one of many said facets of our society that has had to make numerous adaptations in order to facilitate the strains the Pandemic has put on our society.

One of the biggest changes to the Court system during this time has been the way we file our proceedings and documents with the Court. Prior to the Pandemic, many pleadings and court documents needed to be filed physically with the Court. This meant that we would need to prepare original copies of documents that we would then need to send out with our Process Servers to physically file them with the Court.

Since the Pandemic however, many documents and pleadings can now be filed electronically, which has really changed the way law firms interact with the Court.

What are the positive aspects of electronic Court filing?

Well, one positive aspect of electronic filing is that our clients incur less costs as it is no longer necessary to pay our Process Servers to physically pick up the documents from our offices and take them to the appropriate Courthouse for filing. This can be especially helpful for when the time limit for filing a document is limited, sometimes involving it needing to be filed the same day. In this instance prior to the Pandemic, the documents would need to be filed on a “Rush” basis, meaning our clients having to incur further costs in order to file documents within the prescribed timeframes. With the new electronic filing system, it is now much easier to get documents filed on time without our clients incurring extra costs.

Additionally, It also saves time for support staff. Previously, not only would we need to prepare physical copies for the Court, but also copies for serving on opposing counsel, Defendants, etc. Now however, due to the shift towards the use of electronic portals in the Court system, we are now allowed in certain circumstances to serve via email. This means a lot of time can be saved by support staff by generally only having to prepare one electronic copy that can be both served, and then subsequently filed with the Court. This becomes especially advantageous when dealing with longer documents, such as certain Motions, that can be hundreds of pages long and multiple copies needing to be tabbed and bound.

There is also no doubt that the use of electronic filing is having a positive effect on the environment. Due to electronic filing there is a lot less printing being completed and as a result, much less paper being consumed. Additionally, as mention earlier, in many cases we no longer need to physically file the documents with the Court, meaning there is less emissions from our Process Servers driving all over Ontario to file in the various Courthouses. 

Is there a negative side to filing online with the Court?

One of the biggest downsides to the new online filing system is that our hardworking Process Servers are receiving a significantly less amount of work. Since our firm can now file electronically, many of the jobs that were previously given to our Process Servers are no longer necessary. Of course, certain things such as originating proceedings still need to be personally served, but even with that in mind, there is notably a significant decrease in amount of work provided to our Process Servers, some whom no doubt depend on their work as the main source of income for their livelihood.

In addition, it is hard to determine at this point in time what affect the use of electronic filing will have on the Court staff. It is possible that due to online filing, less staff may be necessary to work in the Courthouses since there has been such a significant decrease in physical filing, meaning less staff is needed to work at the counter. On the other hand, it is also possible that because electronic filing has streamlined the filing process, saving a lot of time that used to be spent on serving and then physical filing, that the Courts may receive a higher volume of filings on a daily basis.   

In summary, although the new online filing system has many benefits, this is to some degree, at the cost of certain job positions in legal system. However, this was a necessary adaptation the Court system needed to make and as for me personally, I fully embrace the new electronic filing system with open arms (socially distanced of course).

Leah Dickie, Legal Assistant