BC courts seek comments from the profession

Should court documents be searchable online?

For the past year, lawyers and members of the public have been able to search certain information on civil cases in BC Provincial Court and Supreme Court registry files and in BC Court of Appeal registry files. A search via Court Services Online will disclose a list of parties, filed documents and applications relating to a court file. As yet, there is no online access to the documents themselves. The question is: Should there be?

The BC Court of Appeal, BC Supreme Court and BC Provincial Court are seeking comments from the profession and the public on this issue through a consultation paper entitled Electronic Access to Court Documents, which is available under “what’s new” on the BC Courts website at www.courts.gov.bc.ca/ca.

The consultation paper provides an overview of these issues and links to a 2003 Canadian Judicial Council study. The Council identified as a major risk of electronic access to court documents ”the relationship between two fundamental values: the right of the public to transparency in the administration of justice and the right of an individual to privacy.”

The documents currently under consideration for access in BC through Court Services Online are listed in the consultation paper. These are initiating documents, pleadings, notices of motion and orders — since these documents generally contain little personal information but provide information about the nature of a case, its progress and its disposition.

To review the current services offered by Court Services Online, visit https://webapps.ag.gov.bc.ca/cso.

Please send comments on the consultation paper by January 31, 2006 to:

Jennifer Jordan, Registrar
BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
800 Smithe Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 2E1
Email: e-access.comments@courts.gov.bc.ca