It’s a new year. And it’s something of a fresh start, after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an unexpectedly rough couple of years. But in the realm of Family Law especially, there’s a lot of catching up to do.
That’s why the Chief Justice Morawetz of the Ontario Superior Court has issued a December 2022 Memorandum, advising about an initiative aimed squarely at clearing the backlog of civil trials.
Through the work of the Superior Court of Justice Regional Senior Judges Council, a special session of two different 4-week long virtual trial sittings will be held, for civil cases that do not involve a jury.
The first sitting (held mid-November to early December 2023) will target the Southwest Region first. Cases will be triaged according to their age, and the likelihood of being scheduled for trial in reasonable short order. The second 4-week sitting (in April 2024) will focus on cases from all other regions. Pre-trial and trial dates will be pooled from across the province, and the use of CaseLines will be mandatory.
Chief Justice Morawetz added in his memo:
In the coming weeks, parties will begin receiving pre-trial and trial dates. In cases selected, counsel and witnesses must make themselves available all day, every weekday during the sitting to ensure the efficient use of the Court’s time.
The Memo also calls upon lawyers for their feedback on who to make this backlog-clearing process as efficient as possible.
The move is being heralded in the legal profession as being a good first step. However, some lawyers’ organizations and other stakeholders have expressed concern that – in light of what’s been called a “tremendous” COVID-19 backlog – two special sittings will not be enough, and that much more needs to be done.