What to do when the courthouse is closed

How to bring an urgent application at the B.C. Supreme Court when the courthouse is closed

By William G. MacLeod Q.C. and Kate Gower.

Effective March 19, 2020, the B.C. Supreme Court suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia until further notice. While the courthouse is closed, applications may be made to the Court only for essential and urgent matters. The move is part of the Court’s efforts to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

New court process for hearing essential and urgent applications.

The Court has outlined a procedure to hear only essential and urgent applications. The procedure contemplates an electronic process for filing application materials, and a phone or video hearing, but details are left unaddressed. Presumably the judge or master hearing the application will want to provide direction according to the needs of the application, and the convenience of the parties and the Court.

You must fill out a Form to have your matter heard.  We suggest that you add to the Form that you request the judge or Master who will hear the application consider approving: 

  • the use of CaseLines software to produce application materials to the Court and to present application materials in Court; and
  • the use of video conferencing software such as Skype for Business or Zoom to facilitate the hearing. 
  • You can include a link to this blog post to support your request.

Presenting application materials when the courthouse is closed

CaseLines uses a cloud-based document repository based in Canada. It is designed to help parties present documents electronically to the court.  It has already been successfully used in the B.C. Supreme Court in Hutchison v. Moore  and The Nuchatlaht v. BC. Its use aligns with BC’s Court Digital Transformation Strategy 2019-2023.

The Courthouse is closed. Use Caselines to bring e-Applications.
An example of an application file in CaseLines. You can customize and change the name of the case, the titles of folders and documents in the left pane.
You can also “lock” the file prior to the application hearing.

There is no software to install. Once you have an account you are ready to go. This will be the same for the other parties and the judge. 

In CaseLines, you can arrange the documents exactly as you would arrange your Application Binder. You can upload authorities and written submissions.

Once you have approval from the Court to use CaseLines for your application, invite the other parties and your judge to join by sending them an email. They will register with CaseLines and then they will have the ability to see the documents too.

You do not need to purchase licenses to use CaseLines.  CaseLines charges 40c/page for documents to be uploaded. It is a one-time charge. You, as the applicant’s counsel, upload your documents, and then the responding parties and the Court can all access those documents with no further charges.   Responding parties will pay similar charges related to their posted material. This can be clarified by agreement.

During the hearing, you will speak to a document. You will tell the other parties exactly what page you are referring to, and the parties and the Judge will be able to instantly navigate to the same document and review it. You can also use the software to send a pop-up message to the other parties and the Court that you are asking them to review a specific page. CaseLines will have added bates numbers to the top right of all pages. Those numbers mean you can be crystal clear about the document, and page, you want to discuss. For example, in the example above, the document has the number “A1” in the top right corner. 

There are also annotation features and presentation features in the software to facilitate effective presentation to the court. 

Why CaseLines?

Some people will tell you that there are lots of different ways to conduct your E-Application, and you do not need to pay CaseLines 40c/page. That is true. However, they still involve you organizing your documents somewhere and communicating with the other parties and the Court that you intend to use memory sticks or a cloud-based repository for documents. You have to think through the organization of your documents. You have to explain to all involved how the parties and the Court will have access. This may cost you more in terms of time and effort.

Also:

  • CaseLines has added functionality that you will not get on a memory stick. For example, it gives you the ability to direct others to the page you are talking about, and different ways to make notes on documents (and share those notes with your team). It also lets a person download all the documents in one giant PDF at the end of the hearing if that is needed for court records. 
  • The process is scalable. Once you have learnt how to do your first e-Application in CaseLines, you will be able to follow the same process for the next one, and the next one. 

Finally, you’ve got enough on your plate right now. This blog post is all about sharing something that works. CaseLines’ record includes 39,000 users and over 400,000 eTrials. Coupled with the free use of video conferencing software such as Zoom, this is a solution that meets the needs of all parties and one that can be assembled efficiently, effectively while the courthouse is closed, and without risk of any exposure to COVID-19. 

We are all in this together. If you have concerns or questions, Kate Gower can help. Contact her through www.gowermodernlaw.com, via email at kate@gowermodernlaw.com or call her at 1-778-384-6541. You can also contact CaseLines directly: they are based in the UK and providing support and assistance up to at least 3pm Vancouver time.