Taking Case Conferences Seriously

February 7, 2022

By Mark Mikulasik

Case conferences are available under the Rules of Civil Procedure to move cases forward more efficiently, more affordably, and more justly by allowing judges to make binding procedural decisions at the conference without formal motions. The use of case conferences on a formal basis in civil litigation is a relatively new thing, with the rule being amended in 2014, and the use expanding greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In progressive jurisdictions such as Thunder Bay (and the whole Northwest region), they have been around informally for a long time, but their use has expanded here as well.

Case conferences were formalized as a means to cut through the burdens of the rest of the rules. As the Chief Justice put it in 2014 in speaking about why the new rule was necessary: “perfection can be the enemy of the good.”

The introduction, and expanded use, of case conferences on a formal, structured basis means that there has been a learning curve for judges, lawyers, and clients.

You might even say that a lot of participants do not take case conferences seriously.

This must change, as illustrated by a Toronto decision in Innocon Inc. v. Daro Flooring Constructions Inc. Though Toronto has long been known to have more delay and less civility than Thunder Bay (and not just in litigation), this was a construction case, and even in the Northwest, those tend to be slow and complicated.

The issue in that case involved an order to inspect samples of flooring that were alleged to be defective. These procedures are not rare, and the fact that an inspection will occur is seldom the real issue. The arguments usually involve the terms upon which testing will take place.

The judge had no difficulty setting terms in this case. He however went on to add some general remarks about case conferences that are worth paying attention to. He summarizes his views in this warning to parties and their lawyers:

Parties should expect case conference to be used to resolve summarily procedural issues with greater frequency. With current backlogs and resource limitations, there is simply no judicial time available to schedule short motions especially those which, like here, are tactical and do not advance the resolution of the case on its merits.

At Weilers Law, we believe that justice on the merits, quickly and cost effectively, is best for our clients.  We have always been cost conscious. We have always believed that a quick resolution is often better for our clients than waiting in search of a more perfect truth, which is often elusive. We have always reserved tactics for their proper time and place, and oppose abuse. These are part of the “Proud Traditions” we have built up over 75 years as a firm. If you share these values, and want lawyers who take justice and cost effectiveness seriously on your side, we just might be the lawyers for you.