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Modernizing the Federal Court

The CBA’s Federal Courts Bench and Bar Liaison Committee supports digitization initiatives but remains cautious about using AI in decision-making.

Federal Court of Canada

Increasing access to justice through modernization and strengthening the Federal Court as a national institution are priorities laid out in the court’s proposed 2020-25 strategic plan that the CBA’s Federal Courts Bench and Bar Liaison Committee is pleased to support. In a letter to Chief Justice Paul Crampton commenting on the strategic plan consultation paper, the Committee says it supports digitization initiatives that would “accelerate the shift from a paper-based organization.” The Committee encourages more widespread use of e-filing and e-service, electronic proceedings and scheduling and videoconferencing.

“Electronic court records permit more efficient records management, leading to cost savings and faster processing,” the Committee writes, which is of particular importance to business as it relies on accurate and up-to-date records to inform commercial decisions.

The Committee is more reserved when it comes to the consultation paper’s discussion of artificial intelligence offering “opportunities to increase access to justice, for example by facilitating mediation.”

While it recognizes the potential for improved efficiencies, the Committee asks the court to be cautious about using AI in the decision-making process. “Technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning may inform a human decision-maker, but should not fetter that decision-maker’s discretion.”

The Committee is on board with the idea of promoting awareness of the court and suggests that public outreach could include presentations at law schools, bar admission courses or conferences. It supports the court’s efforts to facilitate mediation by travelling to meet the parties and encourages more mediation training for judges to “continue improving this emerging aspect of the Court’s offerings.”

In response to the plan’s discussion of proper facilities for the court, the Committee says it believes that all judges and personnel, registry and administrative services and archives should be housed in one location to better serve each region, in facilities where technological improvements could be incorporated, and where services can be delivered cost-effectively and securely.