Revised June 23, 2022, for implementation on January 1, 2023
In 1992, the Callaghan Scheduling Convention was established by the Regional Senior Judges Council (“RSJ Council”) with a goal of ensuring that an adequate level of judicial service was maintained with the resources that are available to the court. In 2010, RSJ Council approved an addendum to the Callaghan Scheduling Convention and reviewed the scheduling convention respecting supernumerary judges established in 1999. In the fall of 2021, the Ontario Superior Court Judges’ Association (the “Association”) submitted its Final Report of the Callaghan Convention Committee, November 8, 2021. Certain recommendations from the Association have been incorporated. This revised scheduling convention comes into effect on January 1, 2023.
The court’s priority is providing the public with the highest quality judicial services in a reasonably timely way. Effective judicial scheduling is integral to achieving this goal. In accordance with sections 14 and 75 of the Courts of Justice Act, Regional Senior Judges (“RSJs”) are responsible for:
- Determining the sittings of the court.
- Assigning judges to the sittings.
- Assigning cases and other judicial duties to individual judges.
- Determining the sitting schedules and places of sittings for individual judges.
- Determining the total annual, monthly, and weekly workload of individual judges.
- Preparing trial lists and assigning courtrooms, to the extent necessary to control the determination of who is assigned to hear particular cases.
The purpose of this scheduling convention is to provide the RSJs with guidance in discharging these duties. RSJs are tasked with preserving the high quality of Superior Court adjudication and making the best use of existing resources, while understanding that there are finite number of judges and a finite number of weeks in a year. RSJs will keep this in mind when exercising their discretion under the convention.
Part A – Judges Sitting Full Time
The revised judicial scheduling convention for full time judges is as follows:
- Sitting Weeks
Each full-time member of the court will sit thirty-five (35) weeks per year. Included in sitting weeks will be time spent at meetings of the whole court, referred to below as administrative sitting weeks.
- Administrative Sitting Weeks
Each judge has three (3) administrative sitting weeks (“ASWs”) per year to attend the spring conference, fall conference, and statutory meeting week, except:
- judges in their first year will be provided with two additional ASWs to attend two weeks of “New Judges’ School”; and
- judges who attend the criminal and family “Judging in the First Five Years” courses will be provided with additional ASWs for each week attended.
Generally, no regular sitting work will be scheduled by the trial coordinator during the portion of the three ASWs that is not required for attendance at the conference or meeting or travel to and from it. The RSJ in each region will schedule the judges and matters to proceed on the non-conference and non-meeting days in the designated ASWs based on the real scheduling requirements of the region. For example, judges may be asked to preside on a continuation of a trial or on urgent unscheduled motions. If a judge missed all or part of an ASW because the RSJ required the judge to sit, the missed ASW may be made up to the judge on a day-for-day basis for the days worked at the discretion of the RSJ.
If an RSJ determines that regular sitting work must be scheduled during the non-conference and non-meeting days of the ASWs in order to manage the court’s caseload, full-time judges may provide advance notice of their preference to sit during all non-conference days in both conference-week ASWs, (2½ days each week for a total of 5 days), in exchange for a non-sitting week scheduled at another time.
- Non-Sitting Weeks
Each full-time member of the court will be given nine (9) non-court or non-sitting weeks. Generally, five (5) of these non-sitting weeks shall be apportioned in the winter/spring terms with the remaining four (4) in the fall term, unless the judge sits during the summer months and is assigned a non-sitting week during the summer. See paragraph 13 for the exception where ten (10) non-sitting weeks will be provided.
While there is no obligation on a member of the court to spend non-sitting weeks in the courthouse, it is essential that non-sitting weeks are not equated or confused with vacation weeks. Non-sitting weeks are working weeks. During non-sitting weeks, it may be necessary for judges to be “on call” to assist by sitting for the week. Should it become necessary to call on a particular judge to fill in during one of their non-sitting weeks, that non-sitting week, or part thereof, will be credited to the judge on a day-for day basis for the days worked at a subsequent point during the calendar year. If a judge missed all or part of a scheduled non-sitting week because of the judge’s decision to “work through” to accommodate an ongoing trial or time-sensitive motion (e.g., an injunction), the missed non-sitting week may be made up to the judge on a day-for-day basis for the days worked at the discretion of the RSJ. Should a judge decide to schedule a matter on their own initiative, without prior consultation with the RSJ, payback may not be sought. Where a non-sitting week is missed late in the calendar year and there is insufficient time to schedule a make-up week, the RSJ has the discretion to approve that it be carried over to be made up during the first three months of the next calendar year.
Judges are not permitted to take consecutive non-sitting weeks.
Non-sitting weeks will not be scheduled contiguous to vacation weeks unless, at the request of the judge, the RSJ grants approval due to extenuating circumstances. For example, an RSJ may approve a vacation week contiguous with a non-sitting week during which the judge attended an out-of-province conference.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of activities expected of a judge during a non-sitting week:
- reading pleadings and motion materials, factums, and pre-sentence reports;
- writing rulings and judgments;
- reviewing and editing transcription of rulings and judgments prior to release;
- analyzing case law and case briefs;
- reviewing and summarizing notes in relation to evidence;
- judicial administration, to the extent that the judge is involved in this endeavour at the request of the Chief Justice or an RSJ;
- judicial education, including attendance at French language training programs and mandatory self-study on the law of sexual assault, but not including the education courses for new judges set out in section 2 above;
- liaison with legal and other community groups involved in the administration of justice, to the extent that the judge is involved in this endeavour at the request of the Chief Justice or an RSJ; and
- speaking at conferences.
In setting the annual regional judicial schedule, RSJs will schedule non-sitting weeks by balancing the need of the judge to be out of court at regular intervals with the needs of the region. A judge who is dissatisfied with their scheduled non-sitting weeks should discuss the matter with the RSJ. Scheduled non-sitting weeks ought not to be interfered with except in serious circumstances, and even then, as a product of discussion between the RSJ and the judge affected.
- December Non-Sitting Week
The week that includes December 25th is non-sitting week unless it is taken as vacation. Generally, no regular sitting work will be scheduled during the December non-sitting week, however the RSJ may schedule judicial coverage for emergency matters or other necessary matters. When December 25th falls on a weekday, that week is considered the December non-sitting week. When December 25th falls on a weekend, the week following is the December non-sitting week. At the RSJs discretion, if December 25th falls on a Thursday or a Friday, the RSJ may make the following week the December non-sitting week so there are adequate judicial resources for pre-Christmas family motions. RSJs will administer the court year calendar in a flexible and practical way to ensure there are adequate judicial resources needed to meet the demand during that week. Judges who are required to work during the December non-sitting week will be paid back on a day-for-day basis for the days worked.
- Vacation Weeks
Each full-time judge is entitled to eight (8) weeks of vacation per year. The timing of vacations require RSJ approval as the RSJ must ensure that the operational needs of the court are met. Once a vacation week is scheduled, it will not be changed without the approval of the judge. Generally, four weeks’ vacation will be taken during the summer months and four weeks may be taken at other times of the year. Vacation entitlement may not be carried over from one year to the next without the written permission of the RSJ.
- Preparation Time
RSJs recognize that, where a judicial assignment will require a substantial amount of preparation before the hearing or list commences, efforts should be made to include preparation time in the assigned judge’s schedule. Where a matter has been sufficiently lengthy or complex so as to justify some out-of-court time to permit the judge to organize or synthesize the case material before being called upon to commence another assignment, the RSJ retains a discretion to schedule out-of-court time to accommodate such circumstances. Where such occasions arise, the RSJ should continue to have the discretion to allow extra out-of-court time, to be determined always having regard for the specifics of the case, the needs of the judge, and the needs and challenges of the region.
- Sitting Day
4½ to 5 hours is the reasonable judicial sitting day, not including morning, lunch, and afternoon breaks. Additional hours daily over and above “sitting hours” are an inherent and reasonable aspect of the discharge of duties in a judicial day.
- Notice of Judicial Assignments
RSJs will make efforts to provide timely notice of judicial assignments. Last-minute schedule changes or assignment changes may cause stress and RSJs will bear this in mind as one of the many circumstances relevant to such decisions.
- Completing Scheduled Matters
It is in the best interests of the parties and the justice system as a whole for scheduled matters to be heard. Where a judge’s list collapses, the judge will be expected to assist other judges in completing their lists and/or preside on in-writing or other matters.
- Jury Trials
Judges should not be assigned other work while they have a jury deliberating, although, depending on the circumstances, they may reasonably agree to do shorter matters. Judges should not routinely be assigned back-to-back lengthy jury cases unless they agree.
The court recognizes that circuiting should not occur simply for the sake of circuiting. However, where circuiting is integral to meeting the demands of the court, that responsibility ought to be borne equitably, having regard to the particular demands of a region and the needs and preferences of individual judges within a region. Judges should provide information to the RSJ regarding their express needs and preferences regarding circuiting, which should be taken into account in regional scheduling, together with travel time and other relevant factors. RSJs and the judges of a region, individually and collectively, should be encouraged to discuss the issue of circuiting, the problems it raises, and the needs and circumstances of the region which give rise to the need for circuiting.
- Specialization (other than the specialist members of the Family Court)
The Superior Court of Justice is a court of general jurisdiction. Where practicable and having regard to regional circumstances and the expressed interests of individual judges, the court should continue to schedule to its strengths. Not all judges wish to specialize in a particular field. Others do. RSJs should seek input from individual judges about the areas of law in which they are most interested, and in which they consider themselves to have specialized knowledge and ability. Based upon such information, RSJs should continue to schedule so as to accommodate and use specialization as far as practicable.
The jurisdiction of the Superior Court of Justice requires RSJs to schedule recently appointed judges to a full variety of work during their early years to enable them to gain a solid grounding in all areas of the court’s responsibility.
- Scheduling Anomaly – “53rd Week”
RSJ Council discussed the anomaly that the court calendar presents every 6 or 7 years – the “53rd week” of the year. The start date for each new court year is the day following the last week of the previous court calendar year (e.g., not necessarily on January 2.) As a result, every 6 or 7 years, a 53rd week will occur as the last week in the court year (straddling two calendar years). The 53rd week should be designated as an additional NSW in that year. Judges that are required to sit during the 53rd week should be repaid in non-sit days, on a day-for-day basis.
Part B – Scheduling Convention for Supernumerary Judges
The scheduling convention for judges sitting on a supernumerary basis is set out below.
Supernumerary judges are fundamental to the system of justice in the Province of Ontario. Their wealth of experience and their breadth of knowledge are both essential and central to the resources of the court. It is also recognized that, by electing supernumerary status, the judge increases the judicial resources available to the justice system by providing a position for the appointment of a replacement judge. The court is grateful to and recognizes the significant contributions of the supernumerary judges.
The purpose of this protocol is to facilitate consistency of approach for supernumerary judges across the province and to provide guidance to judges considering supernumerary status. It was written after consultation with the Ontario Superior Court Judges’ Association.
Responsibility of Regional Senior Justices
The RSJs, on behalf of the Chief Justice, exercise responsibility for assignments, scheduling and accommodations for judges, always taking into consideration special requirements.
Supernumerary Election (s.29 and s.33 of the Judges Act)
When electing supernumerary status, a judge is asked to give six months’ notice. Following the effective date of election, a judge, having given appropriate notice, may be expected to continue sitting full-time for a period not exceeding the pro-rata requirement of weeks to be worked as a supernumerary judge.
Judicial Assignments and Duties
A supernumerary judge will sit seventeen (17) weeks in a calendar year.
Except for the summer period, sitting weeks shall be in blocks of time of not less than three (3) consecutive weeks in length unless otherwise directed by the RSJ to meet the needs of the court. To accommodate elections at different times in a year, a pro-rata adjustment will be made to the weeks expected to be worked during the calendar year.
If a supernumerary judge attends the Spring and Fall Conferences in weeks chosen as part of their 17 sitting weeks, they will be scheduled for their remaining 15 sitting weeks to sit in the required minimum three-consecutive-week blocks. Where a supernumerary judge attends a statutory meeting, this is not considered sitting time.
No non-sitting weeks or holiday weeks are credited against the required seventeen weeks. Nor is any credit given for extra-judicial work such as teaching or serving on boards or commissions, or for weeks performed outside the region unless requested by the Chief Justice.
Supernumerary judges may choose either or both spring and fall educational conference weeks as part of their 17 sitting weeks. They may not credit against their sitting weeks either the Christmas week or the regional statutory meeting week.
A supernumerary judge who sits more than 17 weeks in a calendar year may not apply the excess weeks to the next calendar year without the prior approval of the RSJ.
A supernumerary judge may elect to sit more than 17 weeks each year in consultation with the RSJ. In assigning duties, the RSJ may recognize the special contribution being made by a supernumerary judge who is working more than 17 weeks per year.
Recognition may also be given to the special interest or expertise of a supernumerary judge in the determination of their duties, but such recognition is subject to the needs of the region as assessed by the RSJ.
Scheduling of Assigned Work
The RSJ will prepare the schedule accommodating the choice of the supernumerary judge as much as may be practicable, having regard to the scheduling needs of the region. To enable this to be done, the RSJ may require sufficient advance notice of the supernumerary judge’s choice.
A supernumerary judge will, where necessary, work a minimum of two weeks in the summer period of July and August.
Supernumerary judges are expected to participate fully in the duties of the court including ex parte chambers and other work that is normally performed by a judge.
It is desirable that a supernumerary judge circuit for no more than half the time of a full-time judge, having regard to the choice of the supernumerary judge and the scheduling needs of the region. In some judicial districts, the workload may not be sufficient to permit compliance with this objective.
The 17 weeks that a supernumerary judge will sit are based upon the duties as assigned by the RSJ. If a supernumerary judge wishes to sit in another region, other than as assigned by the RSJ, that judge may do so, provided that this is in accordance with the existing protocol of the court and does not conflict with assigned duties. Such weeks are not credited towards the seventeen weeks a supernumerary judge will sit.
Accommodations and Support Services
Supernumerary judges who work full-time will retain their accommodation for as long as they continue to sit on a full-time basis. It is recommended that supernumerary judges who work part-time shall vacate their accommodation upon the appointment of their replacement and will be allocated other accommodation by the RSJ, which may be shared with another supernumerary judge, or which may be smaller or less convenient than the accommodation vacated. The accommodation will be in a secure area where possible.
Computer equipment supplied by the Province or Chief Justice and being used by the supernumerary judge on the effective date of their election may be retained by the supernumerary judge until resignation or retirement.
Secretarial assistance will be supplied commensurate with the number of weeks a supernumerary judge sits.
Parking arrangements will continue on the same basis as for full-time judges during the weeks a supernumerary judge sits.
 If a judge is unable to attend both weeks of New Judges School within the first year after their appointment, they may request RSJ approval for an administrative sitting week to attend New Judges School in their second year.