Is there a question you’ve always wanted to ask the Chief Judge? You’ll have your chance during Law Week. The BC Provincial Court’s Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree will host a live Twitter Town Hall on BC Law Day, April 14, 2016. You’re invited to participate in this unprecedented opportunity to chat with the Chief Judge on Twitter by using the hashtag #AskChiefJudge.
On April 14, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, the Chief Judge will answer questions and engage in live Twitter conversations on topics related to access to justice, the future of the justice system, and problem-solving courts including First Nations courts. Why these topics? Each of them is in the news these days, and each is important to the public, the Court and the Chief Judge.
Access to justice
Access to justice is a top priority for the Provincial Court of BC. Sitting in more than 80 communities around the province, the Court tries to make justice geographically accessible to as many British Columbians as possible. And judges who visit smaller communities to conduct court often do more than just hear cases - they meet with local groups to learn about local problems and resources and speak to school classes.
Provincial Court family and civil procedures are intended to work for people without lawyers, and the Court is constantly trying to make people’s access to court easier. For example, on this website you’ll find “how to” guides and standard wording for family court orders. The Court is working to develop probation and family court orders using plain language. And the Court participated in the BC Law Society’s Paralegal Pilot Project allowing designated paralegals to appear in court on certain matters.
Another way the Court contributes to access to justice is through its online communications. This website, re-launched in 2014 with plainer language and new resources for self-represented litigants, had 1,206,910 page views in 2015 – very high traffic for a BC justice system website. The website’s eNews articles, posted weekly for the last 16 months, inform the public about the Court’s work, its judicial officers’ activities, justice system resources, and legal subjects . Popular topics have included reports on the Court’s northern circuit courts and the challenges social media present for judges. The Court also has a Twitter account @BCProvCourt, recently described by one follower as “one of the best uses of social media by a public institution I've seen in a long time. Useful & engaging!”
The Chief Judge is a member of the Access to Justice BC committee, British Columbia’s response to a national call for action to make family and civil justice more accessible. Access to Justice BC is a forum for open communication and collaboration among justice system stakeholders. Dedicated to producing action, not reports, it is committed to approaching issues from the users’ perspective. Recently, BC was the only province in Canada to receive an A+ grade from the National Self Represented Litigants Project for including a self represented litigant and other court users on this committee.
Now in his 7th year as Chief Judge, Judge Crabtree has been forward-thinking. With a far-reaching vision for the court, he has led it through an administrative reorganization designed to streamline administration and make it more efficient and effective. He has also led the Court through significant changes in how trials are scheduled. The Provincial Court Scheduling Project, designed to make more effective, efficient and equitable use of Court resources, has just wrapped up. Its early results appear positive, with noticeable benefits in many locations.
These initiatives are just some of the Court’s innovations designed to better meet the needs of people seeking timely resolution of their disputes, in a way that enhances confidence in the justice system. The Chief Judge looks forward to continuing to engage the public in this process through the use of technology and the upcoming Twitter Town Hall.
Problem-solving courts, First Nations courts, and related justice issues
The Provincial Court of BC has a number of problem-solving courts: Vancouver Drug Treatment Court, Downtown Community Court, Victoria Integrated Court and four First Nations Courts around the province. Chief Judge Crabtree has a longstanding commitment to developing justice initiatives to meet the needs of indigenous people. He has worked hard to provide the financial and other support necessary to develop the three latest First Nations courts and is in discussions about the possibilities for others. The Chief Judge will continue to work to address the challenges arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s findings and recommendations. At the same time, the Court will continue to explore ways in which restorative principles and practices can be incorporated in both the criminal justice system and child protection matters.
So prepare your questions …
You may have questions related to any or all of these topics, and Chief Judge Crabtree is looking forward to discussing them with you. However, he cannot comment on individual cases, and he may not be able to answer all questions during the two-hour Town Hall on April 14. Efforts will be made to answer outstanding questions here on the Court’s website www.provincialcourt.bc.ca after the event.
Spread the word! Let people know about the Provincial Court Twitter Town Hall. Start now to send questions to the Chief Judge on Twitter using #AskChiefJudge, and join the chat on April 14. Tweet your questions and if you’re at a courthouse that day let us know what’s going on there.