Is it Archaic or Important ?

I was recently interviewed by the Lawyer’s Daily to comment on modernization in the BC Court System.  On the same day that was published, a client bemoaned the fact that the Rules of Civil Procure required original signed affidavits to file with the Ontario Court. 

My initial thought is yes, electronic signatures are a good idea, but then I remembered a recent file I had where the individual litigant on the other side of the file created a fake Court Order. They’ve been convicted and sentenced, which is a good thing, but it made me wonder: if we move to electronic signatures on Court documents, how many more fake Court Orders will there be?

I am 1000% in favour of modernization of the Court system in Ontario.  The more I can electronically file, the better.  However, in our push for modernization, we must ensure that what we’re getting rid of is not an important thing to keep.

An original signature on an affidavit is likely an important thing to keep.  This ensures that affidavits are signed by the person swearing them to be true.  It ensures that the person who claims to have witnessed that signature actually did so.  If we eliminate the original signatures on these documents, are we downplaying the importance of “telling the truth” in these documents?  My concern is we are.

Think to the last time you had to agree to a term and condition on a website.  Did you read it carefully to ensure you agreed with every point?  You likely didn’t.   You scrolled to the bottom, clicked “I accept” and were on your way. 

Treating an affidavit, which is evidence that goes before the Court, the same way we treat iTunes terms and conditions, is likely not helpful in advancing Justice.  Justice is not just about speed.  It’s about “getting it right”.

All of the above, unfortunately is likely a wasted opinion.   I fully expect that for the rest of my legal career, I will be required to have a fax machine in order to satisfy the requirements of our non-modernized Court system.  I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD