Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Ontario, We Have a Document Management Problem

This is not specifically BC-related, but it has been a slow news day.  In a scathing judgment (that may be an understatement), Justice Brown of the Ontario Superior Court - Commercial List, characterized the Ontario Courts' document management system as a "scandal" and demanded it to be brought in the 21st century, forthwith:

[12]           So what about Receiver’s counsel?  I suppose counsel could not go wrong by always operating on the basis that this Court’s document management system will fail and always bring duplicate copies of everything.  But, one must ask, why should those who use our public courts have to act on the assumption that whatever they did before, whatever they filed before, will go for naught?  Hardly what one would describe as cost-efficient access to justice. 
[13]           The real solution?  Consign our paper-based document management system to the scrap heap of history and equip this Court with a modern, electronic document system.  [14]           A warm, sunny day like today perhaps allows one to dream a bit.  What if our Court had an electronic case management system which recorded, as a matter of course and without the need for extraordinary judicial direction, that certain documents had been filed and sealed in a proceeding, so that when the matter returned for further hearing an electronic flag would pop up alerting court staff that sealed documents might be required for a hearing? 
[15]           And what if our Court had a system under which documents were filed electronically and accessible to judges and others through a web-based system, with sealed documents specially encrypted to limit access to judges only? 
[16]           Yes, Virginia, somewhere, someone must have created such a system, and perhaps sometime, in an another decade or so, rumours of such a possibility may waft into the paper-strewn corridors of the Court Services Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General and a slow awakening may occur. 
[17]           If some may consider such criticism un-judicial in tone, I make no apology for the language used.  The state of this Court’s document management and case scheduling systems is a scandal, and the poor excuse of a system which currently is employed should be subject to relentless criticism – judicial and otherwise - until it is discarded and the people of this province are provided by the provincial government with a court administration system of a quality which they deserve.