The Process for the Civil Justice Review

CHAPTER 5

5.1 Consultation
5.2 Focus on Family Law
5.3 Cost Issues
5.4 Technology
5.5 Research

5.1 Consultation

As an integral part of our deliberations, the members of the Civil Justice Review wanted to create as many opportunities as possible to hear from those who are involved in, and who have an interest in, the civil justice system. We set out to talk to, and meet with, as many members of the public, judges, lawyers and court administrators as we could.

To accomplish this goal we arranged for public hearings to be held in 12 different cities across the province. During those community visits we met as well with representatives of the Judiciary, the Bar and Courts Administration -- on both a local and regional basis. We consulted with major Bar Associations as well.

Advertisements were placed in local newspapers. Twenty thousand pamphlets were distributed to the public. Over 600 letters were sent to community organizations and special interest groups. Almost 300 members of the public completed surveys designed by the Review and distributed through the public hearings, the Review Office, and courthouses throughout the provinces.

Approximately 340 people attended the public hearings. 95 written submissions were received from individuals and groups. In addition, 80 responses were recorded on the toll-free telephone number.

Approximately 156 employees of the Courts Administration Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General met with the Task Force and 27 written submissions were filed on their behalf.

All members of the Judiciary were invited to meet with the Review. One hundred and sixty-five Judges participated in regional or local meetings and approximately 30 judges filed written submissions of one sort or another.

All of the Provincial Bar Associations were invited to meet with the Review. 85 lawyers participated in regional or local meetings and each of the associations met with the Review. 48 written submissions were filed, including 7 from legal clinics. Over 500 surveys were completed and returned by civil lawyers.

In addition, the Review met with or received material from representatives of most of the various pilot project and other initiatives that are currently underway in the province. Some of these are listed in our Terms of Reference -- the case management pilots, the ADR Centre, the Advocates' Society Civil Litigation Task Force, the "venue" Committee, the Simplified Civil Rules Subcommittee, the Metro Court Study, and persons dealing with technology change in the province. These projects and initiatives are referred to in specific portions of this First Report.

5.2 Focus on Family Law

It was anticipated, correctly, that much of the response to the Review would focus on Family Law. The Review established a special group of representatives from the bar, bench, public, courts administration, and native child and family services, to review the comments and suggestions raised in the consultation process and to make recommendation to the Task Force. This group is referred to, from time to time, in this First Report as "the Family Law Group".

5.3 The Cost of Civil Justice

To deal with the special concerns about the cost of the civil justice system, both from the perspective of the taxpayer and the litigant, the Review gathered information by means of its own examination of government documentation on budgets and spending, by means of its own research, and through the distribution of a specially designed survey to all lawyers in the province, practicing in the civil law area. In these efforts, we were greatly assisted by the voluntary contribution of Mr. Gerald Sadvari, partner with the law firm of McCarthy, Tetrault.

5.4 Technology

The need for major initiatives in the area of technology became readily apparent to the members of the Review, shortly into the process of our deliberations. We compared the situation in Ontario with the technology infrastructure currently in place in businesses, law firms and court facilities in various jurisdictions in the United States. While certain initial steps have been taken in Ontario to introduce some aspects of technology, there is no co-ordinated and uniform program across the province.

A separate research project was undertaken for the Review in connection with the issues relating to technology. In addition, information was obtained from various sources in the United States, including the Fourth Conference on Court Technology (CTC4) sponsored by the National Centre for State Courts.

5.5 Research

During and following the consultation stage, extensive research was conducted on all matters relevant to the legal issues and principles of the Review. Essentially, the mistakes and the successes of other jurisdictions were seen to be helpful to the Ontario experience.

Material was gathered from recent initiatives at the provincial and federal levels, as well as those conducted in England, Australia, and the United States.

The Geneva Park Conference

An important feature of the Civil Justice Review process was a Conference on "the Modern Civil Justice System" which was held at Geneva Park in October 1994. This Conference was not only a part of the process of the Review but evolved as well as part of the response to the Review. It was attended by senior representatives of the Judiciary, the Ministry and the Bar and by members of the Public. We will return to a description of this Conference after we deal in more detail with the responses received by the Review.