From the BC Court of Appeal
Judicial settlement conference pilot project
The British Columbia Court of Appeal will introduce a pre-hearing judicial settlement conference pilot project in November, 2004. The pilot project will operate for two years, with a preliminary review after the first year.
The purpose of the project is to assist parties to resolve certain appeals at an early stage, to save the parties expense and to expedite final resolution of the dispute.
A settlement conference is available to parties involved in civil appeals. In order to participate in a settlement conference, all parties to the appeal must consent to the process.
A party may withdraw from the process at any time. The Court may reject a request for participation in a settlement conference on the basis that the matter is not suitable for a settlement conference. A judge of the Court of Appeal who has agreed to participate in the pilot project will conduct the settlement conference at a date and time mutually convenient to all participants. If the parties are successful in resolving the dispute through a settlement conference, they will draft and sign an agreement and a formal order will be entered.
If the parties do not resolve the dispute through the settlement conference, the matter will proceed in accordance with the Court of Appeal Act and Rules. The substance of all conversations by the parties during the settlement conference process are statements made off the record. These are confidential and cannot be disclosed in any other proceedings. The judge who conducts the settlement conference will be excluded from the panel presiding at the appeal.
The judge who conducts the settlement conference acts as a mediator performing a judicial function. The judge maintains his or her judicial capacity and its accompanying immunity and cannot be compelled to testify in later court proceedings should they arise.
Parties wishing to participate in a settlement conference must submit a joint request in the prescribed form. The protocol to be followed on a settlement conference is set out in a practice directive issued by the Court. The directive is available on the superior courts website at www.courts.gov.bc.ca.
In developing the protocol and practice directive, the Court of Appeal has drawn on the experience of the Quebec Court of Appeal, which introduced judicial settlement conferences a number of years ago.