In Grand River Conservation Authority v. Ramdas, 2021 ONCA 815, the Ontario Court of Appeal discusses the obligations that the court has to self-represented litigants. Below is an excerpt of some key points:

  • Self-represented litigants are required to familiarize themselves with the relevant legal principles, practices, and procedures pertaining to their case. “However, the court has a duty to ensure that self-represented litigants receive a fair hearing”. (para 18)
  • Judges must permit self-represented litigants to explain how they understand where things stand in the litigation. (para 19)
  • Judges can consider whether providing self-represented litigants with an option to give live evidence under oath and permit cross-examination when appropriate. “This is a tool judges might wish to use in applications or in ordinary motions on a motions day (where such evidence is necessary and otherwise admissible).” (para 20)
  • Judges can consider whether they need to engage in active adjudication to parse out the relevant information from a self-represented litigant. (para 21)

This decision provides helpful guidance to the courts, along with useful references to resources for judges. However, I can’t help but notice that some of the problems litigants face could be addressed with user friendly court forms.

Easily fillable court forms should be a public offering. The courts should be providing forms that are (1) easy to fill out (e.g. a simple, fillable PDF), (2) have simple ways to make Tabs and hyperlinks within and outside the document, and (3) can be uploaded directly to the court’s electronic filing system.

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