The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal has prepared an Annual Report with information about appeal proceedings in 2022, as well as activities of the court staff and judges to improve access to justice, modernize court technology, and foster judicial and legal education.
The report is a first for the Court of Appeal in this province, inspired by similar publications for the Supreme Court of Canada and other appellate and trial courts across the country.
“We are starting this new initiative to reflect our Court’s commitment to transparency and accountability in all aspects of our work,” said The Hon. Michael J. Wood, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. “We believe that public confidence in the judiciary is strengthened when people are able to understand and appreciate the role of courts in our society.”
The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal is the province's highest court. It hears appeals in civil, criminal and family matters from the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, and in criminal matters from the Provincial Court and the Youth Justice Court. It also hears appeals of decisions by tribunals, such as the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
The Court of Appeal does not re-try cases. It reviews the record of the lower court or tribunal for errors of law or other errors that require appellate intervention.
In addition to deciding appeals, judges in the Court of Appeal are actively engaged in a wide range of activities, including serving on advisory committees for the Order of Nova Scotia and King’s Counsel appointments, various access to justice initiatives, and programs for legal and judicial education throughout Canada.
In 2022 specifically, Justice Cindy Bourgeois chaired the federal Electoral Boundaries Commission, which every 10 years provides advice to the House of Commons on how to readjust the federal electoral districts to reflect updated census data.
Statistics included in this Annual Report shows a trend of fewer civil proceedings which continued in 2022. Approximately 40 per cent of court time in 2022 was dedicated to civil (including family law) appeals and motions and 60 per cent to criminal appeals and motions.
Approximately 10 per cent of parties who appeared before the Court of Appeal last year had no lawyer and represented themselves in court. Twelve of those parties were appellants and seven were respondents.
Livestreaming of court proceedings is a proven way to help educate the public about the legal system. In 2022, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal livestreamed three civil and four criminal appeals. The archived video is available on www.courts.ns.ca.
“I am very proud of the commitment and dedication of our judges and support staff over the last year,” said Chief Justice Wood. “In addition to adapting to the impacts of COVID19, we have been able to move forward and improve our practices and procedures in a way that benefits all Nova Scotians. I believe our Court is more accessible than it has ever been, and we will strive to continue that trend.”