Ever since early 2020, many changes have been needed to allow for the pandemic. Now that it seems to have gone away, some of those temporary special procedures and restrictions have been undone. And meanwhile, the courts have been implementing other long-planned improvements. Then very recently, changes in terminology have arisen, some because of the unfortunate death of the late Queen.
Some of the various changes have been published as announcements to the Bar and public, not yet as changes to the Rules of Court.
B. Changes in Names
As provided in the Court of Queen’s Bench Act, on the recent death of the Monarch, the name of the Court of Queen’s Bench changed. It is now the Court of King’s Bench. Documents filed or to be filed, should be headed “Court of King’s Bench”, even for existing lawsuits started under the old name. And a former reference to “Her Majesty the Queen” should now be “His Majesty the King”. However, for now the Court Clerks will not reject a document because it still refers to the old name of the Court or Monarch.
For 150 years, many Canadian courts have had judicial officers to decide procedural matters. They were called Masters or (in Alberta) Masters in Chambers. Since they were in effect a type of (provincially-appointed) judge, this name was puzzling for non-lawyers. They still continue their work, but in Alberta they are now called Applications Judges. The court asks that they be addressed in court as “Judge” or as “Your Honour”.
C. Some Changes for Filing Documents with the Court
For a few years, documents filed with the Court of Appeal have been accepted only by electronic means (the “CAMS system”). That continues. Rules of Court to make this electronic filing permanent are being drafted.
The Court of King’s Bench probably still accepts documents filed in hard copy, stamping a copy of them as filed. Formal orders (reflecting decisions made by Justices or Applications Judges) may be filed in either form, but the Court encourages filing them electronically, indeed will probably insist on that. Electronic filing in King’s Bench can be done by email or on the Filing Digital Service. If an urgent order (same day or next day) has been granted and during the Regular Chambers hearing the Justice signed it in paper form, litigants may come to the Urgent Counter (in Edmonton or Calgary) or the regular counter (in other King’s Bench courthouses). But a non-urgent order signed in paper should be scanned and then filed electronically with the court.
The Court of King’s Bench also handles surrogate matters. From September 13 2022, applications for probate will have to be filed using the Surrogate Digital Service, not in hard copy. If it is impossible to do that electronically, a lawyer may file it in hard copy along with a form explaining why using the Surrogate Digital Service for it is impossible. A suggested explanatory form is on line, but expected to change from time to time.
Appeals to the Court of Appeal are once again being heard live, in a courtroom, with the counsel or parties and the judges all physically present. But all applications heard by one Justice of Appeal are still being heard online. So are judicial dispute resolutions and appeal conferences in family appeals.
Trials in the Court of King’s Bench are again being heard live with everyone present in the courtroom. For other matters, the Court of King’s Bench has on its website a part called “Hearing Guidelines”. It lists which other matters are heard online, or live, or are hybrid.
During the pandemic, the Court of Queen’s Bench had heard long or complex family and civil applications (so-called “specials”) in writing only, with no oral argument, even by telephone or video. That ended September 6 2022. Argument will be both written and oral, and the oral part will ordinarily be heard live in a courtroom.
Urgent without-notice (ex parte) applications will still be heard in urgent matters chambers.
Regular chambers hearings and family law chambers in King’s Bench will again hear applications for consent orders (except protection orders), fiats (on notice), and adjournment applications. These will no longer be heard in urgent-matters chambers. But a request to adjourn an application off a list more than 5 days away may, if desired, be submitted via an online form.
The above is just a summary. The Court of King’s Bench website gives fuller details, requirements, and forms, for that Court. The website seems complex, but a little persistence will usually yield the correct answer. It is wise to check from time to time, as changes are occurring rapidly. Not all are online, and checking with court officials is sometimes wise.
– Hon. J.E. Côté