Q. - What is the purpose of BCJustice?
A. - BCJustice organizes Reasons for Judgement issued by the courts of British Columbia, mostly at the Supreme level. The Judgements have been organized so that interested persons may easily search the Judgements in each specific area of interest. For instance, those interested in Aboriginal cases that have been heard by the Court have access to all of those in a specific section of the database. Each case we present has a brief description as to what it's about so that cases may be easily browsed.
Q. - What is the source of the Court documents provided on this website?
A. - Documents were copied from the Courts of British Columbia's official website then organized in a way meant to provide lay persons with a basic research forum to access decisions of the Court.
Q. - May I take a single copy of any Judgment listed on the Courts' database?
A. - Yes, this is entrenched in law by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Q. - Does BCJustice have any formal connection with the Courts system of British Columbia or any other Court system?
A. - No.
Q. - Is BCJustice connected to any government?
A. - No.
Q. - What is a publication ban?
A. - Certain details in any Judgement may not be made public. Or entire Judgements may not be made public, depending on the type of ban. This is usually done to protect witnesses or victims from damaging publicity or retribution. Bans are also applied to shield jurors from any publicity that could affect their neutrality.
Q. - Who can use the BCJustice website?
A. - Anyone. Although the website was developed for the use of journalists and other researchers interested in the law, legal issues and the courts system, the site is free and available to all.
Q. – What is the difference between the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Superior Court?
A. - The British Columbia Superior Court itself does not hear cases. It is the encompassing body that has administration over the three levels of court in this province: Provincial, Supreme and the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.
Q. – How would I contact the British Columbia Superior Court?
A. - Go to the nearest courthouse and speak to the Court Registrar.
Q. - Can Provincial Court decisions be appealed?
A. - Yes, these are heard by the Supreme Court, although most Supreme Court cases are not appeals.
Q. - Can Supreme Court cases be appealed?
A. - Yes. These are heard by the Court of Appeal for British Columbia.
Q. – What determines whether the Court of Appeal for British Columbia will accept a case from the Supreme Court?
A. - There has to have been a perceived error in law made at the Supreme Court level.
Q. - Can cases be appealed from the Court of Appeal for British Columbia?
A. - Yes. These may be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.
Q. - What do you mean 'may be'?
A. - Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada choose which appeals they will hear. They provide no reason as to why they do, or do not, accept any particular case.
Q. - Why is it that some Judgements on this website have a different year listed for the date of the trial compared to the year under which you have it posted?
A. - The court releases some Judgements much later then the conclusions of trials. These are termed ‘Historical Judgements’ and some of these are issued a year or more after the trial has been heard. We post each Judgement in the year that it is released.
Q. - I have noticed in some Judgements, particularly concerning family or criminal law, that full names of some people are not used and, instead, these people are referred to by initials. Why is this?
A. - This is usually done to protect innocent people, such as children, from harmful publicity, rumour, gossip and/or innuendo. Initials can also be used to protect the identities of certain witnesses.
Q. - What is the criteria for initials being issued?
A. - Insofar as we can ascertain, initials are inserted into Judgements at the discretion of the Judiciary..
Q. - I have noticed you have a section entitled ‘Legal Fee Disputes’. What is this all about?
A. - Any bill issued by a lawyer or law firm can be disputed and there are formal mechanisms to do that. If a client feels he or she has been overcharged for work done, a process exists in which an amount can be appealed.
Q. - How does that work exactly?
A. - If you feel your bill is wrong, first speak to the lawyer who acted for you and raise your concerns. If after this discussion you are still dissatisfied, you may contact the Law Society of British Columbia.
Q. - What is the Law Society of British Columbia?.
A. - It is an independent organization that BC lawyers must belong to, regulating their conduct.
Q. - Is BCJustice or this website connected in any way with the Law Society of British Columbia, or any lawyers’ group?
A. - No. None whatsoever.
Q. - Does the Law Society set lawyers’ fees?
A. - No. There is no fixed rate for any legal services. A lawyer’s fee is discretionary. Before you hire any lawyer, ask about his or her hourly rate and enquire as to the amounts he or she charges for other services such as photocopying.
Q. - So I’ve spoken to my lawyer about my bill and she says it’s fine how it is. But I don’t accept her explanation. How would the Law Society of BC be able to help to resolve things?
A. - The Society has a ‘Fee Mediation Program’, an informal process offered at no cost to either side. The program was established specifically to resolve fee disputes.
Q. - But I don’t dispute my entire bill. Just a certain part of it.
A. - That’s fine. The mediation can focus in on any single part of a bill.
Q. - Would I need to hire another lawyer for this mediation?
A. - No. You can represent yourself. All you have to do is state your case simply.
Q. - Still, lawyers and more lawyers. What chance would I have in getting my bill reduced?
A. - The mediator in a Fee Mediation Program session will be fair and act like a judge, by assessing the evidence objectively before making a decision. Don’t forget, part of the Law Society’s mandate is to oversee and regulate the conduct of lawyers.
Q. - And what if I am still dissatisfied?
A. - Then you can take the bill to court.
Q. - What does that involve?
A. - Lawyers in BC are governed by the ‘Legal Profession Act’. Under the Act you have the right to have your bill reviewed by a British Columbia Supreme Court Registrar, who will set a date after an application is made. The process is under auspices of the Supreme Court, not the Law Society. To learn more about the process, speak to a Court Registrar at a court house.
Q. - Do only lawyers qualify to become Supreme Court Registrars?
A. - Yes. Then once appointed, as with judges of course, they can no longer practice law.
Q. - How about Court Registrars?
A. - They are not usually lawyers, but legally trained.
Q. - Seriously, what kind of chance would I have? Are lawyers' fees ever rolled back?
A. - Of course they are. Check out our 'Legal Fee Disputes' section, and you'll see for yourself.
Q. - Is there a time limit for a fee review application to be made, if I want my bill dispute to be heard by a Supreme Court Registrar?
A. - Yes. It must be filed within one year of the date it was sent to you, the client.
Q. - How about if someone went ahead and paid the bill, then afterwards had second thoughts about the amount charged?
A. - A person can still demand a review. But that must be filed no later than three months after the bill was paid.
Q. - Why is some case or another on this website posted under a year that is different from the year the case was heard?
A. - The Court sometimes releases Judgements long after cases were actually heard, then labels these as 'Historical Judgements'. We post all cases in their actual year of release.