Each Province’s Rules of Court govern how lawsuits and the Civil Court process operate in the provincial justice system. Alberta’s existing Rules of Court have been in place for more than 40 years, so it was felt that it was high time for a review and reform.
It was perceived by the Committee charged with the task of revising the old Rules that they:
- Did not reflect modern lawsuit practice;.
- Were difficult to work with and increased the time and money required to conduct lawsuits;
- Were disorganized and inconsistently applied, which resulted in inefficiencies in lawsuits; and
- Were worded in an archaic fashion and were required to be stated in modern, simple, and non-technical words.
Accordingly, after years of research and review, and many drafts, an entirely new set of Rules will come into effect in Alberta on November 1, 2010.
The new Rules of Court are completely reorganized in a logical and chronological manner, reflecting the stages of a typical lawsuit. Our clients will appreciate the fact that the new Rules focus more on attempting to resolve disputes as opposed to merely processing litigation. For example, under the new Rules, parties will not be able to schedule a matter for trial unless they certify that they have attempted an alternate dispute resolution process such as mediation or arbitration.
Another significant change to the Rules relates to self-represented litigants. The old Rules had the effect of severely limiting self-representation. The new Rules specifically contemplate the roles of self-represented litigants and allow for lawyers to be hired for specific steps of a lawsuit, without the need to hire a lawyer for all aspects of a file.
The new Rules also change most of the time periods for takings steps in lawsuits. For example, the old Rules required a Statement of Defence to be filed within 15 days of service. The new Rules require a Statement of Defence to be filed within 20 days. Alberta’s new Rules should benefit both lawyers and their clients. They are in plain English and easily understood. They are better organized. And, perhaps most importantly, they should create efficiencies in the litigation system that further encourages resolution of disputes with a corresponding reduction in the costs of typical lawsuits.