Attorney General’s B.C. Supreme Court Rules Committee Terms of Reference

1.00    Introduction:

1.01    This document sets out the terms of reference for the Attorney General’s British Columbia Supreme Court Rules Committee (the “Rules Committee”).  

1.02    These terms of reference describe the purposes of the Rules Committee, as well as arrangements for liaison with the Chief Justice of the BC Supreme Court.

1.03    The Attorney General and Minister of Justice has set out the following vision for the Justice and Public Safety Sector (the “Vision”):

Vision

British Columbia is committed to a justice and public safety sector founded on the rule of law. The sector encompasses criminal, civil, family and administrative law. It is fair, protects people, is sustainable, and has the public’s confidence.

  • Fair – by being accessible, impartial, and timely
  • Protects people – via preventative and protective measures, and by working systemically
  • Sustainable – by being focused on key services, well managed and effective
  • Public confidence – by being adaptive, performance-focused and empowering

1.04    The Rules of the British Columbia Supreme Court are an essential element in achieving the Vision.

1.05    To achieve the Vision, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice has identified a number of guiding principles (the “Guiding Principles”) that should be applied to any modification or development of Rules of Court:

Guiding Principles

Access to Justice: Rules should be developed, to the extent reasonably possible, in a way that improves access to justice.  This should be achieved through plain language drafting; simplifying and, where possible, eliminating procedural rules; and taking into consideration the increasing number of self-represented litigants involved in the justice system.

Consultation:  A practice of expansive consultation should be followed, bringing in expertise from legal practitioners and other justice system participants, and bringing a perspective for self-represented litigants.

Efficiency:  Rules should serve a very specific purpose in advancing litigation.  There should not be rules which the judiciary and legal practitioners (*and the public) agree create unnecessary process.

Early Resolution:  Rules should encourage parties to explore all options for early resolution of disputes in a manner that either does not require the involvement of the judiciary, or if it is required, makes the most effective use of scarce judicial resources.

Feedback and Learning:  There should be sufficient flexibility that when it becomes apparent to any part of the justice system that a rule or approach is not working as intended, the rules can be modified to address the deficiency.

2.00    Rules Committee Structure:

2.01    The Rules Committee

Members of the Rules Committee will be appointed by the Attorney General and will support the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in giving effect to the Vision and Guiding Principles by providing the necessary consultation and analysis of proposed changes to the Rules of Court.  In addition, there is value in a systematic approach to rules revision.  

2.02    Court Committee

There will not be judicial membership on the Rules Committee.  The Chief Justice may constitute a separate committee, internal to the British Columbia Supreme Court (the “Court Rules Committee”).  The Court Rules Committee may consider rules issues on an advisory basis, either on the basis of referrals from the Chief Justice or Attorney General , or of its own initiative.  The Attorney General may, upon request by the Chief Justice, provide resources to support the Court Rules Committee, including, from time to time, legislative counsel to assist with preparation of draft rules assistance for more complex matters, or a ministry representative with policy or other expertise.

2.03    Liaison between Judiciary and the Rules Committee

Effective rules development requires input from the judicial branch of government.  This will be achieved by ongoing liaison between the Chief Justice and the Rules Committee as described below in Article 18.00.  

3.00    Legislative Authority:

3.01    The Court Rules Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 80 provides that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, make rules that the Lieutenant Governor in Council considers necessary or advisable governing the conduct of proceedings in the Supreme Court.

3.02    Section 6(b) of the Court Rules Act provides that the Lieutenant Governor in Council must not make any rules governing the Supreme Court unless the Lieutenant Governor in Council has received the recommendation of the Attorney General after the Attorney General has consulted with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

3.03    The Rules Committee is established for the purpose of advising the Attorney General with respect to proposed amendments to the Rules of Court, and facilitating consultation with the Chief Justice.

3.04    The Rules Committee will, on behalf of the Attorney General, consider, recommend, and arrange any consultation that could assist with:

  • Identifying potential changes or enhancements to the Supreme Court Rules;
  • Understanding the impacts, consequences or other issues related to proposed changes; and
  • Supporting liaison and consultation with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

4.00    Purpose & Mandate

4.01    It is the Rules Committee’s mandate to:

  • Develop annually, in consultation with the Attorney General, a plan for considering rule changes;
  • Identify rule changes that it considers are needed, including discussion as appropriate regarding the reasons the changes are needed;
  • Evaluate proposals for rule changes expressed by members of the judiciary (whether through the judicial rules committee or otherwise), the legal profession, ministries of government, and the public, and communicate the Rules Committee’s view of whether or not each proposal should be considered, with reasons as appropriate;
  • Engage in consultation;
  • Provide advice and recommendations to the Attorney General regarding proposed rule changes;
  • Actively pursue opportunities to simplify the language and procedure in the rules to make them more accessible to the public; and
  • Provide advice and recommendations to the Attorney General on issues regarding access to justice that might be addressed through the rules.

5.00    Appointment of the Chair:

5.01    The Chair is appointed to a five year term and may be reappointed to subsequent terms.

5.02    The Chair has the following responsibilities:

  • Recommending members for appointment to the Rules Committee;
  • Chairing Rules Committee meetings; and
  • Liaising between the Attorney General, Chief Justice, and the Rules Committee.

6.00    Membership Composition:

6.01    The Rules Committee shall consist of:

  • The Deputy Attorney General,
  • At least four senior members of the private bar, each appointed for a term of five years, which may include a nominee based on recommendations from each of:
    • The Law Society;
    • The Canadian Bar Association (BC Branch); and
    • The Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia;
  • Legislative counsel from the Ministry of Justice; and
  • Employees of the Ministry of Justice to provide policy, technical and drafting support.

6.02    The Attorney General will give consideration when appointing members of the private bar to their expertise in civil or family litigation and so as to represent both urban and non-urban areas of the province.  

6.03    The Rules Committee may also have a representative for self-represented litigants, which may be from an organization that assists and advises self-represented litigants, at the discretion of the Attorney General.

6.04    The composition of the Rules Committee is intended to ensure that the Attorney General receives independent and objective advice from persons having expertise in relation to the Supreme Court Rules and court procedure.

7.00    Membership Appointment:

7.01    The Attorney General appoints the members of the Rules Committee, after consultation with the Chair and, where relevant, the organization that that member represents. When the Attorney General appoints a member of the Rules Committee, the Attorney General will send that member a letter to confirm the term of their appointment in writing.

7.02    The collective abilities, knowledge and expertise of members will enable the Rules Committee to carry out its duties competently and effectively.

8.00    Members’ Tenure and Terms of Office:

8.01    Members serve at the discretion of the Attorney General for a term of five years. A member may be reappointed for a second or subsequent term.

8.02    If a member resigns, he or she must notify the Attorney General and the Chair in writing. The Attorney General may then appoint a replacement for the member.

9.00    Role of the Deputy Attorney General:

9.01    The Deputy Attorney General (DAG) is the Attorney General’s official representative to the Rules Committee. The DAG may attend committee meetings at his/her discretion or delegate this role to another member of Ministry executive. The DAG is responsible for:

  • Representing the Attorney General;
  • Working with the Rules Committee to develop specific areas for rules revision consideration; and
  • Referring issues regarding access to justice to the Rules Committee for advice.

10.00    Role of the Ministry of Justice Representative:

10.01    The Ministry of Justice Representative will be responsible for:

  • Consulting internally within the Ministry of Justice with respect to proposed rule amendments and presenting the Ministry’s perspective to the Rules Committee;
  • Providing written drafting instructions to Legislative Counsel, in consultation with the Chair;
  • Engaging additional expertise, including legal expertise within the Ministry of Justice, as appropriate;
  • Providing a copy of the written drafting instructions to the Chair;
  • Addressing questions posed by Legislative Counsel, in consultation with the Chair;
  • Ensuring that the Terms of Reference are relevant and up to date;
  • Providing policy and technical analysis support; and
  • Coordinating Order in Council packages including ensuring that consultation, including consultation with the Chief Justice, has occurred.

11.00    Role of the Legislative Counsel:

11.01    The Legislative Counsel is responsible for:

  • Receiving drafting instructions from the Ministry of Justice Representative;
  • Drafting rule revisions; and
  • Working with the Ministry of Justice Representative who is responsible for coordination of the OIC packages.

12.00    Role of the Secretary:

12.01    The Chair is responsible for appointing a Secretary to the Rules Committee.

12.02    The Secretary is responsible for:

  • Receiving and responding to correspondence to the Rules Committee;
  • Scheduling Rules Committee meetings;
  • Preparing the agenda for Rules Committee meetings;
  • Preparing and managing meeting minutes; and
  • Providing support to the Rules Committee, as requested by the Chair.

12.03    The Secretary attends the meetings of the Rules Committee in an ex officio role.

13.00    Funding and Committee Expenses:

13.01    Funds to reimburse the expenses of persons attending Rules Committee meetings are subject to the appropriation of the Attorney General in consultation with the Chair.
13.02    The Attorney General and the Chair will meet annually to establish a budget for the Rules Committee.

14.00    Meetings Schedule:

14.01    Rules Committee meetings are scheduled in advance and are normally held at least every two months except in July and August. Rules Committee meetings take place in Vancouver.  More frequent meetings may be held if the Chair considers appropriate or necessary.  Members may also attend by teleconference or using other technology. Members are encouraged to attend at least one meeting per year in person.

15.00    Quorum:

15.01    The Rules Committee has quorum if a majority of the members are in attendance.

16.00    Attendance by Non-Members:

16.01    Discussion of court rules can involve complex discussion and debate best carried out in the absence of non-members.

16.02    While recognizing the need for non-public meetings which support detailed discussion, the Rules Committee will encourage an open and transparent process to the greatest extent reasonably possible, including open public consultation as needed and appropriate.

17.00    Advisory Committees and Subcommittees:

17.01    The Chair may establish special advisory committees and subcommittees to assist the Rules Committee in carrying out its mandate and duties.

18.00    Liaison with Chief Justice:

18.01    The Rules Committee will establish a schedule for meetings with the Chief Justice.  The purpose of these meetings will be to facilitate consultation with the Chief Justice regarding changes to the British Columbia Supreme Court Rules being developed by the Rules Committee for consideration by the Attorney General.

18.02    Additional meetings may be scheduled with the Chief Justice if necessary to address particular issues regarding proposed changes to the rules.

18.03    The Chief Justice may attend committee meetings at his/her discretion or designate another member of Supreme Court Judiciary to attend on his/her behalf.

18.04    The Rules Committee will provide 45 days notice, or such other period of time that the Rules Committee and the Chief Justice agree is appropriate, to the Chief Justice of any rules changes that it intends to recommend to the Attorney General together with any available draft versions of proposed rules changes, if same are available.