CHAPTER 2. THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
I. THE STRUCTURE OF THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM
Jurisdiction means the right or authority of a court to hear and decide a dispute. It may be in a number
of different forms:
Depends on authority to deal with the case-
a. Monetary- court has been authorized to hear cases concerning money up to a set amount
b. Geographic- cases concerning land within the particular province or area where the land is
c. Authority or power to compel parties attendance/ impose decision on them (in the case of
Court of law can be categorized into:
i. Courts of original jurisdiction/ trial courts: the court in which a legal action (dispute or case)
is first brought before a judge for a decision.
ii. Courts of appeal: hear appeals from the decisions of courts of original jurisdiction. They are
superior or higher courts whose decisions the lower court must follow. This usually occur
when one party is dissatisfied or believes that the trial court made an error in its decision or
erred in the application of the law to the facts of the case.( limited to damages
iii. Federal courts: deals with matters that fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal
governments. The federal court trial division hears disputes between provincial government
and federal government; actions against the federal govt; admiralty, patent, trademark,
copyright and taxation matters and appeals from federal boards, tribunals and commissions.
- Trial decision of federal court may be appealed to the federal court of appeal
- Appeal with leave to the supreme court of Canada
Special tax court (part of federal court system): hears disputes between the tax payers
and Canada customs and revenue agency. (Basically matters relating to tax)
iv. Provincial courts: there is no uniform system of courts in provinces, as each province has
the authority to establish its own system and to assign to each court a specific jurisdiction.
a. Criminal courts
i. Magistrates or provincial court: provincial court of original jurisdiction presided
over by provincially appointed magistrate or judge.
- Dealing with criminal matters related to accused individuals or corporations
- Some hear cases involving the violation of provincial statutes and municipal by-laws
where some sort of penalty is imposed. - Has jurisdiction to dispose of criminal matters or have accused tried by the m/p court
and will hold a preliminary hearing of the more serious criminal to determine if
sufficient evidence exists to have the accused tried by the higher court.
- Only Quebec doesnt have a magistrates court.
ii. Provincial Supreme Court: or superior court deals with serious criminal cases.
Ontario: superior court of justice.
Assizes: Sittings of the court held in different places throughout the province.
iii. Youth Courts: deal with cases where young persons are accused of committing
criminal offence ( Youth criminal justice act):
- 12 -18years of age
- Presided over by judges who have the powers of a justice or magistrate of a summary
- If guilty- penalty/fine, order compensation or restitution, community service work,
commit youth to custody or provide an absolute discharge.
iv. Family courts: deal with domestic problems and the enforcement of federal and
provincial legislation that relates to family problem, where one persons act may
have serious threat to the other. Presided over by the magistrate or provincial
v. Criminal courts of appeal: reviews convictions of accused persons by the youth
court, Supreme Court or magistrates or provincial court.
- Panel of judges preside over the appeal court
- Majority brings decision
- Final court in appeal supreme court of Canada hears appeals from the decisions of
provincial court of appeal
vi. Civil courts: deals with disputes between corporations or individuals, or
between corporations or individuals and the government.
- Special kinds
- Appeals from inferior courts
vii. Small claims court: hear cases where amount of money involved is relatively
- Courts jurisdiction is usually limited to cases with less than $10,000
- BC has raised its limit to $25,000
- Small informal courts presided over by a superior court judge in a number of provinces
- Cases are small debt or contract disputes, damage cases and others.
- Court cost is low
- Right to appeal is sometimes restricted to a certain amount
- If appeal exists, a single judge of the court of appeal of the province presides over it.
viii. Provincial Supreme Court: hear civil disputes in matter beyond or outside the
jurisdiction of the lower courts.
- Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan Queens bench.
- Unlimited jurisdiction in monetary matters
- Presided by federally appointed judge.- case in the supreme court may be heard by travelling judges or in specified cities where
court sits without jury
- appeal from decision of supreme court is to the appeal court of the province
ix. Surrogate or probate court: special court to hear and deal with wills and the
administration of the estates of deceased persons
- No surrogate court- Newfoundland, Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba,
Prince Edward Island.
- Presided by same judge appointed as local superior court judge.
b. Civil courts of appeal: provincial court of appeal. for civil matter
- Right of appeal from an inferior court does not go directly to the appeal court of
province or territory, but could be through a s divisional court presided by a single judge
c. Supreme court of Canada: the final and highest appeal court in Canada
- hears appeals from the provincial appeal courts
- in civil cases- leave / permission to appeal is required before case may be heard
- issue must be of some national importance
- hears appeals from the federal court
- Is the body that finally determines the constitutionality of statutes passed by the govt.?
II. THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN ACTION
1. Criminal court pr