"PAPER MUST VANISH FROM THIS COURT": CANADIAN JUDGE ORDERS E-TRIAL TO PREVENT COURTS BECOMING MUSEUM PIECES

Mediatelegal

At a time when increased resources are promised to the court it is interesting to read the observations in the Canadian Courts of Brown J in the case of Broome Financial Corporation -v- Bank of Montreal 2014 ONSC 2178 (CanLII). Essentially get rid of the wind up record player and use something a lot more modern.  He was considering an argument that a trial should be conducted partially electronically and partially with 10 binders of documents.

“I.                  Mandated E-Trial for both actions

[1]               In the last Case Conference Memorandum I asked counsel to consult as to whether the October 6, 2014 trial should be conducted as an e-trial.  Some counsel (I will not indicate whom) communicated a desire to work in paper.  BMO’s counsel indicated that the “paper” version of this trial would result in 10 binders of documents.  At the same time BMO would be prepared to circulate a Summation-style database of relevant documents which could also be used at trial by those who so desired.

[2]               Let me express my profound frustration as a judge who has tried to encourage both counsel and fellow judges to make greater use of modern information technologies in our Court.  Those who make up the public court system – be they the judges adjudicating the cases or the counsel pleading them – provide a service to members of the public who face legal problems.  While that service possesses some distinctive attributes – constitutional status, part of the foundation of a democratic system of government, etc. – it still remains a service.  As a service it must be alive to the way in which the community it serves handles and communicates information.

[3]               Our community has undergone radical changes in the way it handles and communicates information.  Take music, as an example.  As a teenager I treasured my collection of 45 rpms; today, my grandchildren would not know what they were looking at if shown one of the 45 snap-in inserts.  A decade later 8-Tracks and cassettes were the rage; they have gone the way of the Dodo bird.  Then CDs began their dominance, but are now rapidly fading under the onslaught of MP3s and other digital storage mechanisms.

[4]               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?

[5]               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.  Accordingly, I order that the six-week trial of the Loretta and Brome Actions be conducted as electronic trials.  More than enough time exists before the October 6 start date to organize the trial materials electronically.  I order counsel to provide me with a formal e-trial plan at the June 26, 2014 case conference.”