The Year In Brief

Maintain core judicial and registry services

In 2013-14, CAS continued to focus on maintaining its capacity to deliver on its mandate by prioritizing the allocation of its limited resources to meet the essential needs of the four courts and by taking action on various initiatives to improve core services and alleviate financial pressures.

CAS made further progress with the implementation of its cost containment strategy to continue to provide responsive administrative and legal services to members of the courts. Measures to lower the cost of doing business included the pooling of resources to address workload pressures, the cross training of employees to increase organizational capacity to meet service demand, and the forming of strategic alliances with other organizations to share resources where appropriate.

On the technology enabling front, the Digital Audio Recording System (DARS) standalone version represents an important, albeit early, step towards electronic courtrooms and the concomitant anticipated cost savings. DARS supports technology-enabled hearings by streamlining processes for recording and transcribing court proceedings. DARS is currently fully operational at the Federal Court and at the Tax Court of Canada. A standalone version is being used at the Federal Court of Appeal on an experimental basis. In some regions where CAS does not have permanent offices, the use of DARS  depends on equipment availability. A networked version of DARS can only be implemented after IT infrastructure enhancements have been addressed. 

Efforts were also concentrated on maintaining and updating the IT infrastructure (including legacy systems), in an attempt to prevent disruption of court operations. Improvements to various electronic systems were made to reduce dependency on paper, and enhance accessibility of records to increase operational efficiency. To better support access to justice for self-represented litigants, CAS improved the layout, design, content and search functionality of the courts' websites.

At the Federal Court, CAS supported a pilot project for the development and implementation of an electronic trial to enable the Court to efficiently handle very large amounts of evidence, pleadings, interlocutory orders, exhibits, reports, documents and transcripts of testimony. The anticipated benefits of this two-year project include more efficient processing and review of court exhibits and an overall reduction in the number of trial days. The success of this project supports moving forward on the implementation of electronic courts.

To ensure the delivery of core services to the four itinerant courts in the provinces and territories where CAS does not have local offices, standardized service arrangements were negotiated and renewed. In addition, a new Policy on the Use of Space by External Entities was developed to maximize the utilization of space and allow other organizations, tribunals and courts to access CAS facilities when available and vice versa. This approach aims to maximize the efficient use of resources, strengthen interdepartmental and intergovernmental partnerships and permit CAS to benefit from the use of space and services under the administration and control of its partners.

On the judicial services front, CAS assisted with the implementation of the practice guidelines for alternative dispute resolution of the Federal Court proceedings involving Aboriginal litigants. CAS also supported the Aboriginal Law Bar Liaison Committee, and provided regulatory assistance to the Rules Committee on draft rules published in the Canada Gazette (Jan. 2014). Additionally, CAS provided support to the Tax Court of Canada Rules Committee in preparing amendments to the Tax Court of Canada Rules which were published in the Canada Gazette (Feb. 2014).

Finally, CAS completed a review of its electronic and print information services, the consolidation of print library collections, the development of an online Book of Authorities including the Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court Common List of Authorities in Patent Law and Trade-Mark Law, and the replacement of its print collection with electronic documents and subscriptions. A suite of library policies and procedures was developed to streamline CAS's holdings, and a new Digital Depository was implemented to facilitate online access to electronic decisions and publications.