Section 3: Public access to civil court files and documents
3.1 Courts of Justice Act provisions for public access
Section 137 of the Courts of Justice Act (CJA) provides for public access to civil court documents.
Upon payment of the prescribed fee, members of the public are entitled to see any current list maintained by the court of civil proceedings commenced, any documents filed in a civil proceeding, or any judgments entered, unless a statutory provision, common law rule or court order restricts access.
3.2 Statutory restrictions to public access
Statutory provisions restrict public access to the following civil court documents:
3.2.1 Documents regarding Parental Responsibility Act matters
Documents filed in the Small Claims Court in relation to the Parental Responsibility Act that include evidence obtained under the Young Offenders Act (YOA) or Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) must be treated like Young Offenders Act or Youth Criminal Justice Act documents and are not publicly accessible. See section “2.2.1 Documents in Youth Criminal Justice Act Proceedings” for details on public access to these documents.
3.3 Files and documents under publication bans
In general, when the court imposes a publication ban, the public can still access the court file and documents. Staff must tell the person who is accessing the file or document that it is under a publication ban and must warn him or her that publication could be a violation of law.
3.4 Sealed files and documents
A sealing order typically provides the date the file was sealed and the name of the judicial official who sealed the documents, but it does not disclose information about the content of the sealed documents. Assuming that is the case, the sealing order is accessible unless otherwise ordered by a judicial official. However, if the sealing order contains confidential information that is under seal, judicial permission is required for access.
3.5 Daily filing list report
The Daily Filing List Report contains the court file numbers, names of plaintiffs and defendants, the Short Title of the proceeding, the Case Type, the Case Opened Date and the Initiating Document for proceedings commenced on that day, and may be made publicly available for viewing at no charge. Copies of the Daily Filing List Reports may be made publicly available on request on payment of the relevant copy fee.
3.6 Case event lists and post-court dockets
The Daily Court Lists provide users with basic next day case event information for Superior Court of Justice cases, subject to certain restrictions. Website users may choose a court location and case type from drop down lists. A list of scheduled matters to be heard the next day at that location will then be displayed.
Hearing lists of the Ontario Court of Appeal are also available the week before matters are to be heard.
Subject to orders of the court and the statutory restrictions outlined in section “3.2 Statutory restrictions to public access”, the post-court docket and case event lists are public documents and may be viewed at no charge. A copy of the docket or list can be provided to members of the public, upon payment of the relevant copy fee.
Note: Due to storage limitations in the court office, some older court dockets and case event lists may not be immediately available at the court counter. The time required to access older dockets and case event lists that are not stored in the court office might be longer.
3.7 Other documents related to civil proceedings
Other documents may be contained in the court file, even though they have not been filed in the proceeding within the meaning of s. 137 of the Courts of Justice Act. As section 137 does not apply to these documents, they are not automatically publicly accessible. Some examples of these documents include:
- correspondence between the trial coordinator and the parties to canvass available dates for events;
- correspondence between the court office and an individual regarding fees paid to court (for example, regarding an NSF cheque); and
- correspondence between the court office and an institution/agency (for example, police) necessary for the institution/agency to enforce or register an order
- fee waiver information.
These documents must be filed in the correspondence pocket within the court file. Court staff must remove the correspondence pocket from the file before providing the file to a member of the public for inspection. However, if the court staff require someone to provide a document to the court before "filing" something further (for example, court staff require a letter explaining, for the purposes of rule 61.13 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, why certain parties have not been served), that document, even if it is the form of a letter, should be placed in the part of the file that is publicly accessible and not in the correspondence pocket.