Metadata (data about data) are the tracks in an electronic document that tell you who the author was, when the document was created and revised, what the text looked like before the revisions and the like. Metadata in a regulatory decision were at issue in De Maria v Law Society of Saskatchewan, 2013 SKQB 178. De Maria, a student-at-law, had admitted that he had cheated on his bar exams and rewrote them before applying to be admitted to practice. When he applied to be called to the bar, the Saskatchewan law society refused to admit him. He sought judicial review of that decision, on the grounds that it was in error.
The Saskatchewan court found no error in the law society's consideration of 'good character' for the purposes of licensing or in the process by which it reached its decision. More interesting is the discussion in De Maria of the argument that the law society's decision was invalid because it was not signed and had been doctored. Schwann J was satisfied that members of the hearing panel had signed the decision individually and sent separate PDFs of the signature page, in counterpart, which was adequate. But De Maria had a point about the authorship and revision of the decision: it is OK for members of a tribunal to get editorial help, or even to let someone else hold the pen (in the sense of writing the actual decision), provided the decision is 'the product of the thought processes of the decision-makers themselves'. The metadata evidence showed that in-house counsel at the law society had worked on the document, but the judge accepted the lawyer's evidence that the changes were 'merely of a clerical or formatting nature'. The implication is, though, that the more extensive the help the tribunal gets, the less likely a decision will stand up as the tribunal's own, under principles of natural justice.