Technology best way to decrease costs, speed up litigation

By Staff

In attempts to improve access to justice in Ontario, the civil courts should look to the technology that has overtaken every other part of our lives, Toronto civil litigator Darryl Singer writes in The Lawyers Weekly.

While outside of the courtroom, lawyers have loaded up on technology — running around with the latest smartphones and embracing the mobile office — Singer, principal of Singer Barristers Professional Corporation, says inside the courtroom “is like stepping back in time.”

As a result, he writes, “let me issue a clarion call: ‘Hey Ontario court system. It’s 2017 and time to get with the technology!’ It’s a safe bet that technology is here to stay.”

Singer explains that with the exception of a failed Superior Court pilot project and a recent attempt by small claims court to allow online filing of pleadings, essentially all interactions with the civil courts are no different today than they were when he graduated from law school in 1991.

“Let’s take a typical summary judgment motion. I must still bind an often voluminous record, send it with my process server to serve opposing counsel, and the process server must then attend at the courthouse in person to file the record.

Scheduling the motion, which is more often than not done on consent, still requires me to leave my office and appear personally in front of the judge, even for such a simple matter. Resisting technology and the price of procedure cost clients money; about $900 for scheduling a motion in fact,” explains Singer.

Conversely, Singer says if he were able to file his materials electronically, time and cost savings would be passed on to clients. If he could schedule appointments and attend case conferences via web conference, the client would be charged accordingly, he adds.

“Many government and regulatory body tribunals already allow case conferences and prehearings to be done via telephone. In British Columbia, the courts opened up to online filing of court documents several years ago. The provincial criminal courts in Ontario have long had simple remand matters done by videoconference to avoid transporting prisoners from the jails just to adjourn a matter to another date,” writes Singer.

“The civil courts in Ontario are anachronistic in their day-to-day operation. The courts serve the people of this province. We must do better. The people of Ontario deserve better,” he adds.

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