Chapter 4 - Implementation Plan, Structure and Working Groups

4.1  The Plan

Implementation

Implementation was, and remains, the imperative foremost in the minds of the Civil Justice Review team after the release of our First Report. [1] We recognized that in order to translate the Report's recommendations into concrete results it was important to map out a process for implementation and to act as a catalyst in moving that process forward. Thus, in our transmittal letter to the Chief Justice and the Attorney General we urged that the implementation process begin immediately, and stated that: [2]

In our view, it will not be necessary to await the results of our Final Report before initiating action. The task ahead of us is enormous. We need to get on with the plan for implementation while the window of change remains open.

With that in mind, we set out in Chapter 23 of the First Report some preliminary thoughts with regard to the implementation process and issues.

Support for early implementation was quickly forthcoming from the Offices of the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. As early as the second Civil Justice Review conference at Cranberry Village in May, 1995, they bolstered the implementation concept with these assurances:

Chief Justice R. Roy McMurtry: [3]
It is essential that plans for implementation be carried out quickly in order to take advantage of and build on the momentum generated by the Civil Justice Review.
(Then) Attorney General Marion Boyd: [4]
I hope everyone here today will support the contract for change and lead the change process. As we build on the momentum begun by the Civil Justice Review, we must be prepared to challenge those who try to prevent change by appealing to tradition or to standard practices of the past.

The newly appointed Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), the Honourable Patrick Lesage, has continued the support of his predecessor in this regard. [5]

The commitment of our court to the recommendations of the Civil Justice Review remains strong. It is imperative that implementation of the recommendations proceed as expeditiously as possible. Delay will further erode public confidence in the justice system.

At the same time, the new Attorney General, the Honourable Charles Harnick, was also quick to endorse the need for action: [6]

I believe that in light of the challenges currently facing the administration of the courts in Ontario, the collaboration and cooperation among the Bench, the Ministry of the Attorney General, the Bar and the Public enabled our committee to develop a viable plan, and one that is capable of taking our courts into the next century.

At the present time, implementation initiatives have focused on the recommendations in the First Report specifically relating to:

  • province-wide caseflow management;
  • the technology necessary to sustain the recommendations;
  • a new process for family law matters; and
  • backlog.

4.2   The Structure and Working Groups

Implementation is proceeding with the joint support of the Chief Justice and the Attorney General. The Task Force continues to provide general guidance and it is intended that the Civil Justice Review, for the time being at least, will remain a collaborative vehicle whereby the Ministry, the Judiciary, the Bar and the Public together will develop ways to implement its recommendations and find the resources to do so. We have been assisted in that regard by a dedicated project team consisting of a Project Director, Ann Merritt, and a small support staff.

As envisaged in the First Report, four Working Groups were established to develop implementation plans relating to "caseflow management processes", "technology", "family law", and "backlog". The members of the Working Groups are listed in Appendix 4. Incorporated into the responsibilities of each of these Working Groups was a "rules" proposing function. As discussed later in this Chapter, it has not been necessary for the backlog Working Group to become active because of the great success of the backlog initiatives undertaken in the Regions at the instance of the Chief Justice, the Regional Senior Justices, the Bar and Courts Administration. The Case Management and Family Law Working Groups have been very active, however.

4.3   Case Management

Co-chaired by Madam Justice Gladys Pardu [7] and by Ms. Mary Lou Benotto [8] , the Case Management Working Group is responsible for developing the form of caseflow management system to be introduced across the province and for overseeing its implementation on a province-wide basis.

A Final Report and a set of proposed province-wide Case Management Rules have been prepared by the Working Group, which the Civil Justice Review endorses in principle. The Report is discussed in Chapter 5.1 and the full text of the proposed Rules included as Appendix 2.

It is anticipated that, based on these proposed Rules, case management will be expanded to Ottawa for 100% of civil cases and from 10% to 25% in Toronto early in 1997.

4.4   Legislation

Also in keeping with the Civil Justice Review's case management recommendations and the proposed "team" approach to the processing of cases, amendments to the Courts of Justice Act were introduced recently to create the position of Case Management Master (called a "Judicial Support Officer" in the First Report [9] ). The Courts Improvement Act, (Bill 79) received Third Reading on October 29, 1996.

4.5   Technology

For the purpose of devising specific implementation proposals relating to an appropriate technological infrastructure for the civil justice system, we thought it necessary to call upon the expertise of individuals from all constituencies within the system -- including the technology community. Much co-ordination and careful planning was called for and, accordingly, we recommended the creation of a Technology Working Group.

The broad mandate of the Technology Working Group, as proposed in the First Report, [10] is to develop specific proposals for the implementation of technology solutions for the civil justice system. The proposed Terms of Reference focused on determining optimum solutions for developing the technology foundation necessary for Ontario's civil justice system, having regard to:

  • cost effectiveness;
  • support of caseflow management;
  • the need for a new management information system;
  • appropriate training opportunities and facilities for users of the system;
  • enhanced public access to the system;
  • secured integrity of the court record;
  • compliance with the unique needs of the judiciary;
  • viability into the 21st century; and
  • integration of data and processing of information from all parts of the justice system -- bar, bench, ministry, police, corrections and others -- while ensuring the principles of an independent judiciary.

Our view of the importance of meeting these criteria in designing and implementing a technology infrastructure has not changed, and we reiterate them here for that reason.

Civil Justice Technology Advisory Committee

In conjunction with technology implementation, a Civil Justice Technology Advisory Committee has been struck. It is co-chaired by Madam Justice Bonnie Wein of the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) and by Angela Longo, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Business Improvement Division. Its members are drawn from the Bench, Bar, Ministry and the Public. They include the systems manager from a large law firm, a senior representative from Interac, a bank vice-president, a public member of one of the Regional Courts Management Advisory Committees and knowledgeable technology delegates from the Ministry.

The mandate of the Advisory Committee is to provide advice and guidance to the Civil Justice Review and to the Senior Management Committee of the Ministry of the Attorney General regarding the implementation of both short and long term information technology initiatives for the civil justice system. These initiatives are summarized as follows:

  1. Interim "1996/97 Initiatives"

    • by early 1997, Case Management is to be expanded to 25% in Toronto and introduced on a 100% basis in Ottawa, using the SUSTAIN for Windows software;
    • an Electronic Filing Pilot Project involving a limited number of participants in Toronto is also to be launched in early 1997;
    • a software program known as the Computer Assisted Case Tracking and Information System (CACTIS) is to be put in place to automate and standardize all General Division trial coordination offices with respect to case information retrieval, case scheduling, case tracking and statistical retrieval; and
    • a Business Process Re-engineering initiative is being conducted in all court offices with a view to identifying the most streamlined and efficient operational practices for those offices, in order to ensure that automation is carried out in the most effective manner.
  2. Longer Term Initiatives: Partnering with the Private Sector

    • a Common Purpose Procurement Process ("CPP") has been issued in order to select a private sector partner that will work closely with government and the courts to identify, develop and implement longer term technology solutions for the justice system.
    A full time project manager has been recruited to support the implementation of technology initiatives. To initiate the deliberations of the Civil Justice Technology Advisory Committee, a well-attended Technology Conference was held on May 30th, 1996. Among the items discussed at the Conference were:
    • current and planned technology initiatives and infrastructure for the civil court system, including the importance of business process re-engineering as a precursor to technology implementation; and
    • the experience of others in partnering technology initiatives with the private sector.

Video Conferencing

With regard to video technology, pilot projects have been established in North Bay, Ottawa, London and Sudbury. While these pilot projects were initially set up in cooperation with the Ministry of Solicitor General and Corrections and focused on criminal remands, the equipment has also been used to test the technology in civil matters. In Ottawa, for example, video technology has been successfully utilized in a number of innovative ways. In several civil matters, including a civil jury trial, witnesses have been examined and cross-examined by video with positive results -- and in the process, saving substantial travel costs to the parties and allowing scheduled trials to proceed as planned. The potential benefits of this form of technology are only now being realized.

4.6   Family Law

A "focus on family law" was the subject of a separate Chapter in the First Report, [11] and in response to the call for implementation a Family Law Working Group has been established.

Family Law Working Group

This Working Group is chaired by Regional Senior Justice B.T. Granger, assisted by Ms. Debra Paulseth, [12] the Regional Director for Toronto Region. It is responsible for developing and implementing the Civil Justice Review's proposals for a "resolution-focused" process for family law in Ontario.

The Working Group is composed of 15 members: two are General Division Justices; one is a Family Division Justice; two are Provincial Division Judges; six are members of the bar (three from outside Toronto); one is a public representative; another a law professor; and three are Ministry representatives. The full group has met on three occasions for two days and at least one further meeting is planned. The progress of the Working Group is discussed in Chapter 7 where family law issues are discussed at greater length.

4.7   Backlog

Elimination of the civil backlog has been recognized as a prerequisite to the introduction and integration of caseflow management. This imperative was emphasized in the First Report. [13]

With this in mind, backlog reduction plans were prepared for each Region by the Regional Senior Justice, at the instance of the Chief Justice and in conjunction with administrative personnel. The plans entail the movement of designated "backlog" judges between Regions, whereby seven judges in each Region are assigned for a four week period to backlog teams in order to attack the existing backlog in that Region. This initiative has been underway since March of this year, building upon earlier preparatory efforts.

The results have been very encouraging.

In the East Region -- Ottawa, in particular -- backlog reduction efforts began in earnest in early 1995. By mid-Summer of that year, phase one of the Ottawa reduction plan had been completed, resulting in the elimination of over 1,000 cases from the trial list. Phase two commenced in late August 1995 and, by the conclusion of the court sittings at the end of June 1996, virtually all cases listed for trial prior to January 1, 1995 had been heard.

In Toronto, as of June 1995, 6093 civil cases remained on the list of cases ready for trial after an initial "shaking out" [14] . A series of purge courts, and a concentrated pre-trial program, reduced this number even further. By the end of May 1996, only 735 cases remained on the list.

These results have required a massive mobilization of effort, organizational skills, and good will on the part of the Regional Senior Justices and the judiciary in general, the members of the Bar who devoted enormous amounts of time and energy to the conduct of pre-trials and to readying their own cases to be dealt with, and Courts Administration personnel who spent hours of organizational time making the scheme work. In addition to the travelling teams of judges, senior members of the Bar devoted thousands of hours to pre-trial settlement meetings, so that judicial resources could be made available for trials. Trial coordination staff supported the process through innumerable calls to "shake out" trial lists and by advising lawyers of when to be ready for trial.

Throughout the Civil Justice Review's initial period of consultation, lawyers indicated their disapproval of the trial "blitz" as a means of attacking the backlog, but were prepared to make a contribution with the expectation that case management would be implemented, that trial delays would be reduced and that future backlogs would be eliminated. As a result of these efforts, and having regard to the results achieved, case management will be expanded to Ottawa for 100% of civil cases and to 25% in Toronto in early 1997, as we have mentioned previously.


Footnotes:

[1] First Report of the Civil Justice Review (Toronto: Ontario Civil Justice Review, March 1995) [hereinafter "First Report"].
[2] Id., at pp. 1 - 2.
[3] R. Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, General Division, and current Chief Justice of Ontario, Address (Cranberry Conference, Collingwood, Ontario, May 1, 1995) [unpublished].
[4] Marion Boyd, former Attorney General, Address (Cranberry Conference, Collingwood, Ontario, May 1, 1995) [unpublished].
[5] The Honourable Patrick J. LeSage, Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, General Division, Address (Council of Regional Senior Justices, May 23, 1996) [unpublished].
[6] Charles Harnick, Attorney General, Address (Dinner in Honour of Lord Woolf, Osgoode Hall, September 6, 1995) [unpublished].
[7] Madam Justice G. Pardu is assigned to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and has been responsible for the case management pilot project in that area, one of three in the province where case management has been successfully modelled.
[8] Madam Justice M. L. Benotto was appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) in May, 1996. Prior to her appointment, and while an active member of the Bar, she was Vice-chair of the Joint Committee on Court Reform with particular involvement in case management initiatives.
[9] First Report, supra, note 1, at p.182.
[10] Id., at pp. 362 - 363.
[11] Id., c.16.
[12] Ms. Paulseth was formerly Counsel to the Civil Justice Review during its First Report phase.
[13] First Report, supra, note 1, at p.155.
[14] "Shaking out" is a procedure to determine which cases on the list are actually waiting to be pre-tried or tried, as opposed to cases, for example, that have already been settled or discontinued: see id., at p.157.

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