BC Court Wants Public Help

I was reading this article on the 24 hrs Vancouver site which talked about how apparently the BC court of appeal was looking for public feedback to find ways to improve the speed while reducing the cost of the court process. You can also read the article at http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2015/01/08/bc-court-wants-help-to-improve. According to the article too you can send your comments to BCCAcivilrules@courts.gov.bc.ca and I found the original pdf document at http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/Court_of_Appeal/announcements/2015/Rule_Reform_Announcement.pdf

I was thinking about this as with my example the court of appeal or anything involving the supreme court seemed inaccessible logistically and financially to the point where even people like myself couldn’t even get a case heard. So in that case I can’t comment how it is like once you actually start a claim through the courts of appeal. But if the whole idea if this is to make it more efficient and accessible to the everyday people from the very beginning then I think the appeal process needs to have an option to start right at the end of a case. So, I decided to write a letter and here are my thoughts:

I would like to offer my input on how I think the BC court of appeal can be more efficient and accessible as I am unfortunately one of the many people who were essentially denied access to justice due to the cost and complexity of the system. I personally feel that to make things more efficient and accessible there should be an option to partially start the appeal process right after the trial itself. With that in mind I offer three points and my reason for it:

1) Initial Appeal To The Actual Trial Judge

With the way the process works you have no choice what happens as the trial judge can say their thoughts and walk away. As the applicant, you are then forced to try and fill out all these forms on how a judge erred where I believe logically it would save so much time if people can get clarification from the trial judge right there and then for a record in a mini appeal phase.

Like here, if I was given an option to ask for clarification then there is a possibility that the judge would correct what seems to clearly be an error. As an over exaggerated example, if a case revolved around a picture which shows that the sky is blue and the judge in his ruling said that the picture showed that the sky was red does it not make sense to address this on the spot to get the judge’s explanation? The same can be true if it was a technical legal error in applying a law.

To clarify, this wouldn’t be an option to argue with a judge if one disagrees with a viewpoint. It’s basically an expedited preventative measure from having to drag on a case to a higher process to begin with. If the litigant was to have the option to list all the facts they feel that the judge factually erred on and give them the opportunity to review and correct it this could at best have a case handled correctly without delay.

At worst, if the judge still believes what they did was correct and the litigant thinks the person is plain wrong factually or legally then you could then use the points brought up at the end of the trial in an expedited submission fashion. Obviously in more complex cases one would probably need to take time to emphasize points, but like in my example the current method makes everything complicated and expensive for matters that should be simple.

This would also help with the whole restoring public trust in the justice system I feel. Like with the sky color example, if the judge still refused to correct their error then this should make it easier for the chief judge to enforce disciplinary action which the public doesn’t feel is currently being done.

2) Starting An Appeal Process With The Court After A Trial

If there was a mini appeal stage for this type of instance then the court could immediately store/record data on what grounds the person has for an appeal. At the same time, if the person wants to appeal the ruling then having the option to transfer things like the court transcript audio to the appeal court should be provided right after the case.

A lot of the fees associated with filing an appeal is essentially repeating what was said in a trial and at the same time forwarding the same material. Does it not make more sense to have the option to forward material on that same date? This is as opposed to the court first storing the data somewhere else where the litigant then has to pay another organization to obtain the material for a fee. Especially if the court is going more digital, this should eliminate the fees that are probably the biggest factor that stops people from having access to the justice system.

3) Digital Video Recording Of Trials With Instant Party Transfers

I feel video recordings is something long overdue and would dramatically cut the costs and time of the court process in many ways. This includes avoiding the need to take it to a higher court in the first place. Why have a complex and costly system of first recording an audio of the session and then paying a company to try and transcribe everything?

To my understanding, in a court of appeal the panel has to essentially guess based on written words on how facts are interpreted by a judge to demonstrate an error in judgment for example. This would take the guessing game out of it and would make it more straight forward.

If everything is recorded digitally then I believe both parties should promptly get a digital copy of the proceeding. This shouldn’t cost the courts any money and not doing so simply puts a financial burden on the party members by forcing them to pay a company high fees to provide it to them. The reason why this makes the system less accessible is because if someone wants to start an appeal there is an initial barrier of a high fee to obtain this material. Hence, many people don’t pursue their case because of it.

By immediately getting a copy of it either party will at least have the basic material to prepare for an appeal. They can review the material to prepare an appeal themselves or take the file and present it to a lawyer for aid. There should still be safety measures in place such as the digital file forwarded to the actual appeals court must come directly from the court.

This might actually give people the material they need to avoid an appeals court in general too despite a questionable decision by a judge. It may potentially eliminate the backlog of cases as more than likely people will conduct and take cases more seriously in the beginning with accuracy if they know everything is being video recorded.

Not sure if they will actually take my thoughts seriously, but may as well try. I know I am being extremely far-fetched and crazy in thinking here, but if the courts do go entirely digital with things like videos, in terms of an appeal process it would kind of be good to have all the court proceedings published online where anyone can openly access it for free.

Imagine being able to access everything like a simple Youtube video. That would actually make the courts truly accessible for everyone to learn. In some crazy way too, it would probably save the courts time and money as they can leverage the power of the people to flush out the truth once they see all the facts themselves.