Organization of the Month | April 2017

This month, we feature the BC Provincial Court, a Clicklaw contributor.

An Innovating Court

The Annual Report notes that the BC Provincial Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years.

The BC Provincial Court’s  2015/16 Annual Report highlights several of their innovations: the use of video technology to save transports for prisoners’ preliminary court appearances, an active website and social media presence for more open communication, improvement in caseload management, an open and accountable complaint process, and volunteer activities by the Court’s Judges, Judicial Justices and staff.

Their efforts to serve the public by providing an accessible, fair, efficient and innovative forum for justice also include several notable initiatives with direct public impact: In addition to hosting the second-ever Twitter Town Hall, the Court is also taking greater efforts to improve meaningful access to justice for self-represented litigants (SRLs), and has recently released Guidelines for Using a Support Person in Provincial Court.

Support Persons Welcome

The Annual Report noted that the Court saw 135,663 self-represented appearances in 2015/16. This is a 4% increase, and is the first increase in the past five years. A self-represented appearance means an appearance where at least one of the parties does not have (is not represented by) a lawyer.

The Guidelines clarify that the Court welcomes self-represented litigants (SRLs) to bring support persons to civil and family court trials or hearings, although individual judges still have the discretion to decide whether the support person’s presence would be disruptive or unfair in a particular case.

The help provided by the support person can include: taking notes, organizing documents, making quiet suggestions to the SRL, providing emotional support, and doing any other task approved of by the judge.

The Court hopes that this initiative will bring clarity, consistency and credibility.

Further details are provided in the Guidelines and the Court’s eNews announcement.

Twitter Town Hall 2.0

The Provincial Court ran its second ever Twitter Town Hall, which included participants from: justice system organizations, lawyers, students, and people with legal problems.

Chief Judge Crabtree answering questions at the second annual Twitter Town Hall

The event invited anyone to “tweet” a question to Chief Judge Crabtree, who would endeavor to answer all questions in a two-hour period on April 6th.

As the Chief Judge explained, “Last year’s Town Hall wasn’t just a one-off event intended to make a splash. It was part of the Court’s ongoing communication initiatives dedicated to two-way engagement with the public…It’s just as important that we listen to the questions and comments of British Columbians about their courts and justice system. Our public speaking engagements permit this two-way communication, but Twitter provides an opportunity to engage with more people in a different way and with people who may not be able to attend a class or meeting due to geographic or other barriers.”

The Court received 176 tweets and responded with 129 answers and 9 comments.

Recurring themes included: Access to Justice, “unbundled” legal services, the new online Civil Resolution Tribunal and changes to Small Claims Court, diversity on the bench, using plain language, restorative justice, and First Nations Court.

The success of #AskChiefJudge inspired the Nova Scotia Courts to launch their own #AskaNSJudge event.

Information for the Public

The Court also continues to publish new information through its website. As a Clicklaw contributor, the Court ensures its resources are made more widely available and searchable on Clicklaw.

Read eNews for useful and interesting information about the Court and its work.

The Court’s Digital Communications Coordinator, retired judge Ann Rounthwaite, said “We try to provide people with useful and interesting information about the Court and its work by regularly publishing short eNews articles on the website, engaging in two-way communication through @BCProvCourt on Twitter, and providing helpful information on our website.”

For example, see these resources on Small Claims:

Stay Informed with BC Provincial Court

You can subscribe to eNews and follow the Court on Twitter.
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Twitter Town Hall this April 6th

Do you have questions for Chief Judge Crabtree?

About his career and experience as a Provincial Court Judge and as the Chief Judge of the Court? About his leadership and the Court’s many initiatives? About judicial appointments, judicial education, reducing delays, or …?

You’ll have an opportunity to ask him yourself, in two weeks’ time. Clicklaw will also be at the event in support, to answer any questions about public legal education and information (PLEI) in BC, contributor organizations, and more!

How to Participate

Tweet your questions using #AskChiefJudge on or before April 6, 2017. He’ll tweet you back between 11am-1pm.

Please note that the Chief Judge can’t discuss individual cases or political issues, and may not be able to answer all questions during the Town Hall, but efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions on the Court’s website after the event.

Answers will also be available at #AskChiefJudge.

Here’s a Throwback Thursday to last year’s first ever Twitter Town Hall: See the post that gave a recap of all the events.

Stay informed with the Provincial Court:

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Clicklaw at the first Canadian Twitter Town Hall with #AskChiefJudge

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Chief Judge Crabtree taking a selfie by request at the Twitter Town Hall. Also pictured: Karen St. Aubin from the CBA BC Branch, Audrey Jun from Courthouse Libraries BC (Clicklaw)

The BC Provincial Court — a Clicklaw contributor — made history last Thursday as the first court in Canada to hold a Twitter Town Hall.

Everyone was invited to participate by tweeting questions to the Provincial Court’s Chief Judge Crabtree using the hashtag #AskChiefJudge or by sending an email prior to the event. The Chief Judge tweeted 100 direct replies in response between 1-3pm on April 14th, BC Law Day.

As the Provincial Court eNews notes, the event was promoted by “[t]he communications team of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch…as part of BC Law Week. They, and the BC Law Society, Trial Lawyers Association, Courthouse Libraries BC, Clicklaw, Justice Education Society, Legal Services Society, Mediate BC, Access Pro Bono, Access to Justice BC, and Nidus joined the conversation, adding helpful information.”  Thank you as well to all Clicklaw contributor organizations and Clicklaw visitors and users for participating!

News of the event made waves online:

Following the Town Hall, reflections on the event’s success:

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Tweet the Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court

logo_provctWhen: April 14, 2016, 1-3 pm

What: A live Twitter Town Hall Q&A with Chief Judge Crabtree

Topics: Access to justice, the future of the justice system, problem-solving courts and First Nations courts, and related issues. Read more about the topics here.

In a few weeks, you will have an unprecedented opportunity to chat with the Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court, Thomas Crabtree, who will be hosting a live Twitter Town Hall.

We’ll be live to answer any questions about Clicklaw and any of our contributor organizations’ resources–some may be participating directly as well! Don’t miss out.

How to Participate

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Follow @BCProvCourt

Tweet using the hashtag, #AskChiefJudge – you can post questions any time before April 14th if you aren’t available then.

Don’t have Twitter? Email questions to: TwitterTownHall@provincialcourt.bc.ca before April 14th.

Note

The Chief Judge cannot comment on individual cases, and may not be able to answer all questions during the Town Hall, but efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions on the Court’s website after the event.

Stay informed with the Provincial Court:

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