This year the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General introduced a new online service for filing civil claims for six locations in the Superior Court of Justice. The service, which can be accessed here, has been available in the pilot locations of Brampton, Ottawa, London, Newmarket and Sudbury for approximately five months and in Toronto for two months.
Lawyers and litigants in the pilot sites have started choosing the new and more convenient route to file documents to initiate a civil claim in the Superior Court of Justice. They select and submit court forms online, pay court fees securely by credit card or debit, and receive court-issued statements of claim and notices of action by email. After only a short few months of the introduction of the service for the pilot sites, almost 1 in 5 civil actions filed to the eligible court locations were filed online. The ministry’s user satisfaction survey revealed that 90 percent of survey respondents were satisfied or very satisfied, and 100 percent of respondents indicated that they would use the service again.
On October 23, 2017 the next phase of the ministry’s civil e-filing initiative will be launched for the six pilot sites. This phase will offer service improvements and provide users with greater convenience and usability. It will allow lawyers to electronically file claims more quickly by eliminating the need to re-enter their contact data in each submission for filing. The new features will include the ability to save draft submissions and to continue with the submission to file a claim at a later date. Users will have the ability to search and view online records of their filings and their draft submissions, along with records relating to electronic filing fee payments. These improvements will be offered through the new user account system. Users will be guided through a simple, one-time set up of their ONe-key and Justice Services Online accounts before they file a claim. ONe-key is a unique electronic credential that allows a person to communicate securely with many Ontario government online services (see here for more information). The Justice Services Online account will enable users to access the online services offered by the Ministry of the Attorney General.
By the end of November 2017, the Civil Claims Online Filing service will be available in all court locations across the province. The ministry is working towards expanding the types of court documents that can be filed electronically in civil court proceedings through the service. By May 2018, the ministry anticipates enabling users of the service to file court documents related to defences. This multi-phased and incremental approach enables the ministry to create and test the technology in stages, to implement the required changes to civil court processes and to seek amendments to the relevant civil court rules. Introducing the service in phases also allows the ministry to enhance the service based on user feedback. The feedback and insights of the OBA membership will assist the ministry as it continues to streamline the process to electronically file documents in civil proceedings.