Different laws for different Court Houses is not OK

There was a time when a Blog with this title was only, ever about Small Claims Court.  That’s not the case today.

In Ontario, the Rules of Civil Procedure govern steps in a lawsuit.  The Associate Judges and Judges interpret and apply those Rules and in the past, different courthouses have had different procedures for applying the Rules.

However, we’re in a situation in the Toronto Court House now where the Judges are deciding how lawyers will run their files and that is not OK.

If you want to bring a motion in front of a Judge in Toronto you must first attend virtual  Civil Practice Court (CPC Court).   You and the other side agree to a timetable for your matter ahead of time and the Judge endorsed the record to make it official and give you a hearing date.

Less than a year ago the Rule was that you had to be heard within 100 days of CPC Court or explain to the Judge why you need more time. Evidently, those days are gone, though the Practice Direction, as of the date of writing this Blog, still says you need to arrive with dates within 100 days.

However, rather than schedule matters further out, or provide counsel and their clients the choice of continuing with the motion or choosing not to go that route, Judges are refusing to let counsel schedule motions.

That. Is. Not. In. The. Rules.

I appreciate the Courts are backlogged.  I appreciate we need more Judges.  Neither of these are an excuse to refuse to let Counsel run their case.  Prohibiting a party from bringing a motion they want to bring is Justice denied.  If it doesn’t succeed that gets addressed on costs. 

My suggestion for fixing the backlog

The Toronto Court House is backlogged because every wrongful dismissal plaintiff’s firm is bringing their claim in Toronto to take advantage of mandatory mediation.   A simple Rule change requiring employment claims to be brought where the plaintiff was employed will help curb some of the pressure.  Another option, make mandatory mediation Province wide.

Similarly, if Toronto Judges award significant costs against plaintiffs who should have started their action in Small Claims, rather than Superior Court, that will send a message as well and clear out a lot of the cases in Toronto.

Of course, we need more Judges appointed to hear the cases.  However, taking the steps I suggest above would go a long way to clearing out many of the cases currently grinding the Toronto Court House to a halt.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD