Technology allows us to move from paper filing to electronic filing. But, justice demands that we move from paper to electronic filing. In a democracy, people are entitled to have access to public records.
Currently, the Supreme Court of Canada has electronic filing. I recently wrote about the assisted dying case Carter v Attorney General of Canada http://bit.ly/1GYYAwK. Anyone can read the factums by the parties and can watch the proceedings online: http://bit.ly/1xc4FTA
Ontario should follow the Supreme Court of Canada’s lead. First, it would provide people with a bank of precedents. Lawyers and self-represented litigants could look at similar cases and review how lawyers framed their case and which authorities they relied on. This prevents clients from having to pay for unnecessary duplication of work.
Second, e-filing provides for a more fulsome record. Being able to read the pleadings (and ideally watch the proceedings) allows people to better understand how and why the court came to its conclusion. Law professors could even incorporate the materials into their courses.
Third, e-filing removes barriers to access to justice. If people want to access pleadings filed in an Ontario court, they have to physically go to the registrar. People with mobility issues are discriminated against. In the digital age, this borders on undemocratic.
I look forward to the Ontario courts embracing electronic filing. Delaying doing so provides grounds for a section 15 (equality rights, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) lawsuit against the government. People with disabilities are unjustifiably discriminated against by the status quo.
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