For Immediate Release
April 27, 2012
Ministry of Justice
Supreme Court masters to help with pre-trial management
VICTORIA – Supreme Court judges in B.C. can now get additional help with making trials more efficient.
Masters are now able to conduct trial management conferences, which help keep trials on schedule by dealing with procedural matters before a trial starts. The change, which took effect April 25, amends the July 2010 Supreme Court civil and family rules that made the formerly optional conferences mandatory and specified they should be conducted by the trial judge.
Masters are former practising lawyers appointed to assist the court by sitting in chambers and making decisions about pre-trial motions and procedural orders.
Trial management conferences devise a plan for how the trial should be conducted, including whether the parties agree on some facts, agreements on the use of documents, time limits for the parts of the trial, witness summaries and directions on how experts will be used.
Controlling costs and delays through efficient scheduling of court cases and use of judges’ time are priorities for the Province. With many courtrooms at capacity, procedural delays that require court dates to be rescheduled can add weeks or months to a trial’s length.
Proactively managing trials speeds up court hearings and gives more time for the aspects of criminal, civil and family matters that require a judge’s involvement.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond –
“We want to do more before trials start to ensure parties are prepared in advance, so that court hearings are as orderly and efficient as possible.”
“People want their day in court to be conducted in such a way that they can make the best use of their time and the judge’s expertise -- and making trial preparations in advance helps with this.”
· Trial management conferences are held at least 28 days before the trial. They are attended by parties to a dispute, their legal counsel and a judge or master.
· The trial brief summarizes the issues and proposed evidence, contains each party’s position and includes witness lists.
· Masters can hear most matters a judge in chambers would, with some exceptions, such as criminal proceedings or matters where a party has a legal disability that prevents them from managing their own affairs.
· B.C. has 13 masters appointed by the Province, and 106 Supreme Court judges appointed by the federal government.
· Supreme Court practice direction on use of masters for trial management conferences: www.courts.gov.bc.ca/supreme_court
· Green Paper on justice system review: www.ag.gov.bc.ca/public/JusticeSystemReviewGreenPaper.pdf
· Justice reform: www.justicebc.ca
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