I had the privilege of hearing the Honourable Justice Thomas McEwen of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice speak at The Advocates’ Society’s Estates Litigation Networking Reception on November 23, 2015. Justice McEwen sits in Toronto and is currently the Civil Team Leader.
Justice McEwen noted that the system of 9:30 a.m. scheduling appointments on the commercial and estates list had been very productive and he is looking to roll out 9:30 scheduling appointments in the rest of the civil system (a formal motion does not need to be booked for a scheduling appointment; the parties can relatively expeditiously obtain a date and appear before a judge in his or her chambers). However, there is always room for improvement and his Honour noted some areas where counsel could work to increase the efficiency of the scheduling appointment process.
First, if a matter settles the court staff need to hear about it as soon as possible. Too often, news of a settlement is provided either close to the actual scheduling appointment, motion or hearing or not at all. Scarce court time is being lost which could otherwise have been reallocated to other matters. When a matter settles, let Joe DiPietro of the Estates List know as soon as possible by phone or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, it sometimes seems that counsel are speaking to each other for the first time during the 9:30 scheduling appointment. Time is at a premium for scheduling appointments and it is not fair to those who have 10:00 a.m. motions if the scheduling appointments run overlong. Counsel should talk with one another and resolve as much as they can before they enter the judge’s chambers. Communication between counsel is extremely important and can avoid unnecessary court appearances.
Third, it is the practice of some counsel to seek to have a settlement approved with respect to a person under disability at a scheduling appointment. For these sensitive matters, a motion should be booked at 10:00 a.m. so that the judge can review a written record and will be able to hear fulsome submissions from counsel.
All counsel should heed Justice McEwen’s words and the dictates of the “3 Cs”: “Co-operation, communication and common sense.”