British Columbia Supreme Court Civil & Family Rules Committee Terms of Reference

1.00  Introduction:

1.01  This document sets out the terms of reference for the British Columbia Supreme Court Civil & Family Rules Committee (the “Rules Committee”), including the purpose of the Rules Committee and its roles and responsibilities.  

1.02  The Rules Committee will propose amendments to the Rules of Court that align with the vision of the Justice and Public Safety Sector (the “Vision”) described below:

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.

1.03  The Civil and Family Rules of the British Columbia Supreme Court (the “Rules”) are an essential element in achieving the Vision.

1.04  To achieve the Vision, the following guiding principles (the “Guiding Principles”) should be applied to any modification or development of the Rules:

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

Representatives of the Supreme Court will be designated by the Chief Justice and representatives of the Ministry of Attorney General will be identified by the Deputy Attorney General. Members will support the Vision and Guiding Principles by providing the necessary consultation and analysis of proposed changes to the Rules.  In addition, there is value in a systematic approach to Rules revision.

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 , 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 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  The mandate of the Rules Committee is to:

  • Develop annually, in consultation with the Attorney General, a plan for considering Rules changes;
  • Identify Rules changes that it considers are needed, including discussion as appropriate regarding the reasons the changes are needed;
  • Evaluate proposals for Rules changes expressed by members of the judiciary, 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 Rules 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 by the Attorney General, from among the members of the Rules Committee 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;
  • Determining, in consultation with the Deputy Attorney General and Chief Justice, which Rules Committee members will vote, if a vote is required on any specific proposed Rule amendment; and
  • Liaising with 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,
  • a majority of members, comprising at least six representatives of the Supreme Court, designated by the Chief Justice, including Justice(s), Master(s), and/ or Registrar of the Court. The Chief Justice may also identify  legal counsel of the Court;
  • at least four senior members of the private bar, each appointed for a term of up to five years by the Attorney General, 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;
  • employees of the Ministry of Attorney General, identified by the Deputy Attorney General, to provide administrative, 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 Rules and court procedure.

6.05  For clarity, the Attorney General and/ or Chief Justice may opt to attend any meeting of the Rules Committee.

7.00  Membership Appointment:

7.01  The Attorney General appoints the members of the private bar to the Rules Committee, after consultation with the Chair and, where relevant, the organization that is represented. 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  Role of the Deputy Attorney General:

8.01  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.

9.00  Role of the Justice(s)/ Master(s)/ Registrar of the Supreme Court:

9.01  The Justice(s)/ Master(s)/ Registrar are the Supreme Court’s official representatives to the Rules Committee. The Justice(s)/ Master(s)/ Registrar are responsible for:

  • Representing the Supreme Court;
  • Identifying and recommending specific areas for rules revision consideration from a judicial perspective; and
  • Facilitating consultation with the Chief Justice as it relates to rule revisions in accordance with section 6(b) of the Court Rules Act.

9.02  The Chief Justice may also appoint legal counsel to the Rules Committee to provide policy and procedural expertise.

10.00  Role of the members of the private bar:

10.01  The members of the private bar are responsible for:

  • Identifying and recommending specific areas for Rules revision consideration; and
  • Conducting analysis and consultation of proposed changes to the Rules with the objective of implementing the Justice and Public Safety sector’s Vision and Guiding Principles, including creation of efficiencies that support self- represented litigants.

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

10.03  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.

11.00  Role of the Ministry of Attorney General Representative(s):

11.01  The Ministry of Attorney General Representative(s) will be responsible for:

  • Consulting internally within the Ministry of Attorney General with respect to proposed Rules 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 Attorney General, 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.

12.00  Role of the Legislative Counsel:

12.01  The Legislative Counsel is responsible for:

  • Engaging directly with the Rules Committee from time to time at the request of the Chair to receive instructions or explain draft amendments to the Rules or to other enactments;
  • Receiving drafting instructions from the Ministry of Attorney General Representative;
  • Drafting Rules revisions;
  • Working with the Ministry of Attorney General Representative who is responsible for coordination of the OIC packages.

13.00  Role of the Secretary:

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

13.02  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.

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

14.00  Confidential Information- Disclosure only with Express Authorization of the Deputy Attorney General

From time to time, the Attorney General may seek feedback from the Rules Committee about:

  • draft legislation
  • draft policy
  • legal advice
    (Collectively, “Confidential Information”).

Unless the Deputy Attorney General expressly authorizes otherwise, the members of the Rules Committee will treat as confidential and not disclose or permit to be disclosed:

  • Confidential Information
  • Discussions, notes, email, feedback or recommendations in relation to the Confidential Information.

The Justice(s)/ Master(s)/ Registrar attending the Rules Committee will share confidential information with the Chief Justice and/ or Associate Chief Justice, as deemed appropriate/ necessary by the Justice(s)/ Master(s)/ Registrar.

15.00  Dispute resolution:

In circumstances where the Rules Committee is unable to reach consensus on a Rules revision after a full discussion and consultation, the Deputy Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will discuss the options before a recommendation(s) is made to the Attorney General; no disputed recommendation will be forwarded until 45 days have elapsed from the date that the Deputy Attorney General makes a consultation request to the Chief Justice.

16.00  Funding and Committee Expenses:

16.01  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.

16.02  The Attorney General and the Chair will meet annually to establish a budget for the Rules Committee.

16.03  Members of the private bar will use the form in Appendix 1 to claim for expenses that are approved and required as part of attendance at Rules Committee meetings.

17.00  Meetings Schedule:

17.01  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.

18.00  Quorum:

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

19.00  Attendance by Non-Members:

19.01  Discussion of Rules can involve complex discussion and debate best carried out in the absence of non-members.

19.02  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.

20.00  Advisory Committees and Subcommittees:

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