Court fees are an enormous burden on citizens who are forced to pay excessive fees for courtrooms and juries when seeking civil justice in BC. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada is expected to lead to a less costly structure of fees for renting courtrooms in BC, but another lawsuit had to be commenced to address the excessive costs of securing a civil jury.
Though justice is seldom swift, it is always worth seeking, especially when a successful court challenge can enhance the ability of everyday citizens to obtain justice.
The Trial Lawyers Association of BC (TLABC) got involved in a court case that challenged BC’s system of expensive courtroom hearing fees, which resulted in success by way of the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ruling – on October 2, 2014 – that BC’s excessive fees are unconstitutional. TLABC since bumped up the challenge in late 2014 by suing the BC Government (Attorney General) and the Director of Sheriff Services over the province’s excessive civil jury fees (that case is pending).
It was by way of an intervener effort undertaken years earlier, at the BC Court of Appeal, when TLABC took direct aim at helping to dismantle the high cost of courtroom hearing fees in BC. That saga culminated in Canada’s high court (SCC) declaring the excessive fees are unconstitutional. It was on the heels of that decision that TLABC launched a lawsuit in December 2014, this time to take aim at the excessive structure of civil jury fees that are forced upon citizens who seek justice through the courts.
December 2014 – Lawsuit launched against the BC Government
TLABC launched a lawsuit on December 2, 2014 against the Attorney General of British Columbia and the Director of Sheriff Services. The action takes aim at the excessive jury fees litigants are forced to pay in order to have their day(s) in court before an eight-person civil jury. Our association is immensely grateful to senior counsel Darrell Roberts, Q.C. who filed the notice on TLABC’s behalf and continues to act for TLABC in matters of extreme importance, along with Chantelle Rajotte, co-counsel on the fees challenge.
For more information, read the related TLABC news release, and review samples of media coverage as follows:
- Supreme Court strikes down B.C. court fees for barring access to justice system – Vancouver Sun.
- Listen to 2014 TLABC President Richard Parsons on CBC’s Early Edition (*The interview with Richard Parsons begins just before the 1:41:00 mark and continues until 1:49:30)
- BC trial lawyers issue constitutional challenge of jury fees – Canadian Lawyer Magazine.
October 2014 – Landmark SCC ruling, a big win for everyday citizens
On October 2, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) made a landmark ruling that has a positive effect on citizens who need access to justice by way of the courts. What began in 2009 as a battle between former common law spouses over custody of their five-year-old daughter (Vilardell v. Dunham) ended up being a case that will impact generations of citizens for years to come. The matter of whether the child would live with her mother in Spain or remain in British Columbia was settled five years earlier, but the mother’s simple request to have her hearing fees waived set things in motion for a series of very important legal arguments to be made concerning access to justice.
In the end, the cause of justice has been advanced in a big way, though nobody could have seen it coming back in 2009 when the only thing at issue was whether 5-year-old Yvette would go with her mother to live in her mother’s native country. It is quite the story given the impact one family’s court battle years ago now has on the lives of many other citizens and families.