The sky’s the limit for e-filing court documents


Toronto civil and commercial litigator Jonathan Miller is optimistic that a new pilot program for e-filing civil claims is merely the beginning of online efficiencies for lawyers in Ontario.

The test phase was launched in five communities and once the kinks are worked out, “I really think the sky is the limit,” says Miller, an associate with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP.

The pilot project allows for the online filing of the following documents with the Superior Court of Justice: statements of claim; notices of action; affidavits of litigation guardians for plaintiffs under disability; request for bilingual proceedings; and consent to file documents in French.

The first phase of the pilot, estimated to last up to six months, was launched in Brampton, Ottawa, London, Newmarket and Sudbury, with the rest of the province expected to join later in the year.

Miller tells that it makes sense not to include Toronto in the first phase.

“With the sheer volume of claims in Toronto, it would have been akin to throwing the project into the deep end. The test communities are big enough that the e-filing system will get a good trial run without overwhelming it,” he says.

“I’m excited to see where it goes and I’m happy to see they haven’t bitten off more than they could chew. They’ll tweak the system so that we can start filing defences and other pleadings. Step by step, we will have a more e-friendly system than we do now.”

Miller says Ontario currently lags behind some other provinces when it comes to using technology to streamline legal processes.

Under the standard “paper system,” lawyers must send someone to court with all of the printouts. They often have to take a number and stand in line for their turn with a court official, who stamps and dates the claim.

Miller says the online version is quite “user-friendly.” The program takes you through a series of yes/no questions and drop-down menus and allows you to upload a PDF file. You pay by credit card and can then print out a “stamped” copy of the claim — all without leaving the office.

“It's much easier than having to send someone to court,” says Miller. “I think it also avoids clogging up the counters at court and frees them up to deal with issues that require face-to-face interaction.”

Although he’s eager for the government to expand its use of online filing beyond initiating claims, Miller says “they’ve got the right idea by rolling out the process in increments to see what works and what doesn’t.”

“I’d like to see it get to a point where the hard copy is the anomaly as opposed to what we have right now where the hard copy is the norm and the digital version is the exception,” he says.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has said a province-wide rollout of phase one will happen later this year. The second phase of the program will enable the e-filing of additional document types.

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