By Elizabeth Roberts
Recently, I stood before a Justice in Ontario Superior Court as a self-represented litigant and obtained permission to record a proceeding on my personal recording device, aka… my cell phone.
Had I not learned through the SRL information grapevine that requesting permission to record was an option, I likely would never have discovered this new rule in the legal labyrinth, nor figured out a way to apply for permission to record. These things are just not spelled out for the average person.
Information sharing is vital to an SRL’s access to the justice system. Of course, it is also important for each of us to fact-check the information shared and how it applies to our matter. Since my proceeding, while in a discussion about the trials and tribulations of obtaining court transcripts, I stumbled across the following updated Practice Direction, which no longer requires permission of the presiding judge to record in court, providing the rule is followed.
To my delight, as of June 15th, 2018:
Para 98. “Unless the presiding judge orders otherwise, the use of electronic devices in silent mode and in discreet unobtrusive manner is permitted in the courtroom by… self-represented parties” (The same Practice Direction permits counsel and journalists to also make recordings).
There are some restrictions. These include caveats that the electronic device “cannot interfere with courtroom decorum”, “…cannot interfere with the court recording equipment or other technology in the courtroom”, “…cannot be used to send publicly accessible live communications”, and “…cannot be used to take photographs or videos unless the judge has granted permission to do so.”
What does this mean for SRLs? Fairness, reassurance, and confidence.
What does this mean for the justice system? Clarity, accountability, transparency, accuracy, and (especially in light of the cost of obtaining transcripts, highlighted in NSRLP’s recent Transcripts Report) cost-reduction.
Permitting the recording of proceedings makes sense and is a win-win for everyone.
Elizabeth Roberts is an SRL who works on raising awareness of the obstacles faced by SRLs.