Court of Appeal Releases 2023 Annual Report

Cover of 2023 Annual Report displaying image of artwork at the Law Courts.

The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal's Annual Report includes information about appeal proceedings in 2023 and the work of court staff and judges outside the courtroom. 

This is the second year the Court of Appeal has prepared an Annual Report for the public.

“Since the Court released its first report last March, we have been encouraged by the positive comments and feedback we received in support of our commitment to increased public accountability with respect to our work,” said The Hon. Michael J. Wood, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.

“I am happy to report that all is well with the Court, and we continue to hear and decide our appeals efficiently and in keeping with the highest judicial standards. This is only possible because of the excellent support from our administrative team. They are small in number but essential to our success. Without them we could not have accomplished everything we did in 2023.”

Statistics included in the Annual Report show that 137 appeals were filed in 2023 (89 civil and 48 criminal). These are new filings that are in the early stage of the appeal process.

Appeals disposed of by judgment are in the final stages of appeal, where a panel of judges ruled orally or in writing to dispose of a matter. There were 78 appeals disposed of by judgment in 2023. This is an increase over the historic low of 66 appeals disposed of by judgment in 2022.

The statistics also show that criminal motions without oral argument and civil motions both with and without oral argument all hit record highs in 2023. As a result, substantially more court time was spent dealing with civil matters than in 2022. Approximately 66 per cent of court time in 2023 was dedicated to civil (including family law) appeals and motions and roughly 33 per cent to criminal appeals and motions.

Just over a third of the parties who appeared before the Court of Appeal in 2023 had no lawyer and represented themselves in court. This is up from about 10 per cent in 2022. Nineteen of those self-represented parties were appellants and seven were respondents.

In addition to deciding appeals, judges in the Court of Appeal are actively engaged in a wide range of activities, including supporting and encouraging students at the Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law through lectures and participating on panels for moot courts, including the prestigious Smith Shield.

The 2023 Annual Report also features the unique work of Deputy Judges. These are judges from other Canadian Courts who serve on a volunteer basis with Courts in Canada’s northern region. The Hon. Justice Edward (Ted) Scanlan is one such judge from Nova Scotia who has also presided on the Nunavut Court of Justice for more than 20 years.

“I have often been asked why I continue to go back; my answer is always the same — the people,” Justice Scanlan wrote in the Annual Report. “When these people get together, it is truly a joy to listen as they laugh and share their stories. So long as I am able, I will continue to travel north to experience this part of our great country that most Canadians will never have the chance to see. I will not take that privilege for granted.”

The full 2023 Annual Report is available online here.