Terms of Reference
Traditionally, in Ontario, members of the public have resolved their civil disputes through the court process. This process - based primarily upon the adversarial method of dispute resolution - has ultimately led to justice.
In recent times, however, because of the pressures of modern litigation, such justice has come at great expense to the litigants, and, too often, after numerous and lengthy delays.
The members of the public require a more efficient, less costly, speedier and more accessible civil justice system.
A CIVIL JUSTICE REVIEW:
To achieve this objective, the Government of Ontario and the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), in co-operation with the Bar, have agreed to undertake a broad review of the civil justice system in Ontario. This review is mandated to develop an overall strategy for the civil justice system in an effort to provide a speedier, more streamlined and more efficient structure which will maximize the utilisation of public resources allocated to civil justice. It will identify the various problems within the existing system and design specific and implementable solutions to these problems.
The Review will be conducted by a small Task Force jointly chaired by The Hon. Robert Blair, a Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), and Ms. Sandra Lang, the Assistant Deputy Attorney General - Courts Administration. There will be two other members of the Task Force: a senior representative of the Bar and a representative of the public.
The Review will conduct its mandate through two separate groups: an Interim Task Group and a Fundamental Review Task Group. Each will be responsible directly to the Task Force itself. The Interim Task Group will be supervised by Justice Blair and Ms. Lang. The Fundamental Review Group will be supervised by the Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the Director - Policy Development Division of the Attorney General.
Interim Task Group
The Interim Task Group will be responsible for identifying immediate points of pressure on the system and for developing proposals, to be implemented in the short/intermediate term, dealing with such things as:
- the backlog;
- case flow management and alternative resolution techniques;
- venue for civil cases;
- management information systems, scheduling, tracking and statistics gathering;
- the re-organization of administrative staff and courts administration;
- Judicial support work and auxiliary judicial officers;
- temporary court rooms;
- construction lien caseload;
- issues respecting the jurisdiction and staffing of Small Claims courts;
- the design of strategies to address other pressures and problems identified but not dealt with.
This will involve not only the creation and development of new solutions, but also the co-ordination and integration of the several initiatives already underway amongst the judiciary, the Bar and Courts Administration. In this latter category are such things as:
- the current case management projects in Toronto, Windsor and Sault Ste. Marie;
- the pending ADR Centre in Toronto;
- the recently launched Advocates' Society Civil Litigation Task Force;
- the current "Simplified Rules" study, designed to develop a new set of more easily understood and applied rules for cases involving smaller amounts of money;
- a review of the appropriate venue for civil cases;
- the review of electronic data interchange and its application to the courts, already begun by the Ministry;
- the Toronto court re-engineering project which is now underway.
Fundamental Review Group
It will be the function of the Fundamental Review Group to deal with issues of longer range implications for the civil justice system. Although longer range in its focus than the Interim Task Group, the Fundamental Review Group will nonetheless concentrate on recommendations and proposals that are achievable rather than simply for purposes of discussions.
The Review will draw upon the resources and skills of the Chair of the Ontario Law Reform Commission and the Director of Policy Development Division in connection with this aspect of its work. It may ask the Attorney General to request the Commission to review and report on matters fundamental to the Civil Justice System and the Review will take such Reports as are forthcoming into consideration in arriving at its ultimate recommendations regarding its long range proposals.
Some areas which are to be considered in this aspect of the Review's mandate are the following:
- the role and function of civil juries;
- the question of how the superior trial courts can most appropriately and effectively carry out their mandate in dealing with civil cases, in terms of the way in which various types of cases are processed within and/or outside of the courts;
- the role of Small Claims courts in providing effective access to the system, and the jurisdiction and structure of such courts;
- the role of private industry in providing alternative methods for parties to resolve issues without resorting to the judicial process. This would include mediation, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution processes;
- the role and obligations of litigants to avail themselves of the various resolution initiatives provided by the court prior to the entitlement to a trial.
Interim Task Group Report
It is expected that the Interim report will be completed by November 1994.
Overall Review Report
It is expected that the review will have completed its final report by the Spring of 1995.
The Review will consider the way in which resources are allocated to the justice system and the criteria upon which such allocation is based, whether the appointment of additional resources is needed and justified, and in what ways existing resources can be effectively re-allocated and re-aligned.