Thursday, June 18, 2009

Supreme Speed

Statistics show that the Supreme Court of Canada decided cases and leave to appeal applications faster last year than at any time in the past decade. However, the number of completed leave to appeal applications submitted to the Court for decision in 2008 dropped dramatically by 19% to 509.

The Court reduced the time that it took to decide leave to appeal applications to an average of 3 months, the fastest time in at least 10 years. The court also heard and decided appeals at record speed - an average total of less than 17 months between the filing and the leave to appeal application and final judgment.

The downside of these indicators is that it appears to be getting harder for litigants to have their cases heard by the Supreme Court. Over the past 10 years, the percentage of leave applications granted by the Court has fluctuated between 11% and 15%. Based on trends so far in 2009, it appears that the Court will hear about 70 appeals, well below the average of 82 appeals it heard annually in the previous decade. Expert Court watchers say that the number of interesting and important applications has not changed in any respect over the past 3 decades - what has changed is the threshold - it is much harder to get leave now than ever before.

In respect of the types of cases the Court heard in 2008, 39% were criminal, 10% were charter (civil), 7% were charter (criminal). Litigators like me should take note that commercial law cases heard by the court comprised only 6% of its docket.

As to the appeals heard by the Supreme Court of Canada by province of origin, fully 20% originated from the province of British Columbia, 17% from Quebec and 12% from the Federal Court of Appeal. Only 11% of the Court's cases originated from the province of Ontario.

Stay tuned for more news on this front.



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