BC lawyers no longer have to visit a courthouse in person to see Provincial Court records in family matters – they can now access these court records digitally with just a few clicks! This digital access will increase convenience and speed of delivery for lawyers while reducing workload for court registry staff.
How does it work?
The Law Society of BC has been working with the provincial government’s Citizen Services and Court Services Branch to develop digital credentials lawyers can use to verify their identity securely online. The Law Society uses the BC Wallet app to issue credentials enabling lawyers to access court records digitally on a new Access to Court Materials (ACM) platform.
Approximately 100 family duty counsel lawyers began using ACM in a pilot last spring and the feedback to date has been positive.
The program is now available for family court records province-wide. Practising lawyers (members of the BC bar) can now get direct access to any Provincial Court family court records they’d be able to access in a court registry - whenever it’s needed, and without travelling or waiting.
This eNews answers some questions lawyers might have about the Access to Court Materials program.
What documents can you access?
Provincial Court Family Law Act, Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, and Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) records are accessible using the ACM program, unless the court records have been sealed. Available Court records include pleadings, orders, and court summary sheets.
When you login to the ACM platform, you’ll have to sign an electronic undertaking to comply with the statutory rules permitting access (Provincial Court Family Rules and CFCSA Rules). Remember that there are differences in the access provisions of the two statutes. For example, access to CFCSA files is limited to lawyers of record on the file.
You’ll also be reminded of the Court’s Access to Court Records Policy governing your access. This policy has been updated recently. So before using ACM, review both the statutory rules and the policy to ensure you know the rules. Your use of the ACM program is subject to audit.
BC Supreme Court and Court of Appeal records are not included.
Can you access other types of files digitally?
The ACM program will be expanded to Provincial Court adult criminal files later this spring, beginning in the Northern Region. Lawyers will be able to get digital access to Provincial Court adult criminal audio recordings (DARS) and related court clerk log notes, informations, and the electronic Record of Proceedings.
How do you get started?
Follow the steps and links on the BC government’s Access to Court Materials website.
How is digital access working so far?
As of May 9, 2023, about 260 BC lawyers have registered for ACM. Since inception there have been 10,586 online requests for family court documents. In addition to the convenience for lawyers, the Court Services Branch estimates this has saved court registry staff about 880 hours.
Photo credit: Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash