The Advocates’ Society has released a best practices guide for civil trials. It suggests that the guide is adaptable to tribunal proceedings as well.
Brian Gover, the chair of the Advocates’ Society task force on civil trials, says that although there were differences of opinion on minor points, there was strong agreement among the various parts of the bar on what needs to change.
Some of the interesting suggestions for tribunals include:
- • have the same judge case-manage an entire proceeding (not only for efficiency, but also because it encourages civility and reasonableness on the part of counsel)
- • counsel should discuss hearing planning and strive to reach agreement on procedural issues well in advance of the first day of hearing
- • use agreed statement of facts and joint book of documents
- • sort out admissibility and authenticity of documents prior to the hearing
- • while meeting production obligations, counsel should strive to minimize the number of documents produced without undermining the achievement of a just and accurate result in the proceedings
- • counsel should cooperate in eliminating document duplication
- • time limits should be set having regard to the nature and complexity of the issues. The trial judge should hold counsel and parties to the time limits set, while retaining the discretion to grant modest time extensions where necessary
- • set strict time limits for opening and closing submissions
- • use videoconferencing where possible for out-of-town witnesses, even where credibility is an issue
The guide also includes recommendations for expert witnesses.
Some of the suggested approaches are already being done by some tribunals. What is of value in these best practices is that it puts an obligation on counsel to assist in the effective management of the hearing process.
Also, the consensus that time limits be put on the evidentiary portion of the hearing as well as submissions is both refreshing and encouraging. One hopes that tribunals will seize the opportunity of this consensus to rein in lengthy hearings.