Central East Region: Notice to the Profession Regarding CaseLines in Criminal Matters

April 09, 2021

Background on CaseLines

  • The Ministry of the Attorney General (the ministry), in collaboration with the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ), is introducing CaseLines in criminal matters. CaseLines is a cloud-based document sharing platform that supports remote and in-person court proceedings.
  • CaseLines is part of the ministry’s work to establish new and innovative ways of administering justice, including supporting new ways of conducting proceedings, more remote proceedings and moving more services online.
  • CaseLines is a user-friendly, online service that allows:
    • Crown and defence counsel to share filed court documents of any size and file format prior to and during a specific court event
    • Judicial officials and court staff to access materials for the event and send additional materials such as notices to counsel, orders or reasons for decision and
    • Access 24/7 with or without VPN.
  • The ministry and the SCJ piloted CaseLines through selected civil, family and criminal proceedings in the Toronto Region. Now, the platform is expanding to all areas of the Court’s business in the Central East Region, including selected criminal matters.
  • CaseLines does not replace Court filing. Crown and defence counsel must file materials with the court by email in advance in accordance with the applicable rules in the Criminal Proceedings Rules and Criminal Code and in accordance with the Court’s Practice Directions and Regional Notices.

CaseLines in Criminal Matters in the Central East Region

  • Commencing May 3, 2021, CaseLines shall be used for all judicial pre-trials, bail hearings and bail reviews.
  • During the week of April 19, 2021, the Criminal administration office[1] staff will begin issuing invitations to Crown and defence counsel to upload their materials for hearings scheduled commencing May 3, 2021 and thereafter. Crown and defence counsel will receive an email from the Criminal administration office asking counsel to upload their material for the event into a specific CaseLines folder for the case.
  • Commencing April 19, 2021, when a new judicial pretrial, bail review or bail hearing, is scheduled, the matter will use CaseLines, if the accused person is represented by counsel.
  • Once a CaseLines file is opened for a judicial pretrial, the CaseLines file will remain open to be used for hearing materials throughout the subsequent pre-trial motions, trial or plea, subject to the exceptions noted below.
  • CaseLines will also be used for newly filed bail hearings and bail reviews, commencing May 3, 2021.

Items that should not be uploaded onto CaseLines[2]

  • No materials related to child pornography
  • No document referring to a confidential informant
  • Unless specifically directed by the court to do otherwise, Crown and defence counsel will not upload the following documents into CaseLines[3].
    • a sealed document
    • a document for which a sealing order is sought
    • a privileged document, or a document where privilege is being asserted
    • Any other document where counsel have concerns, until judicial direction is given.
  • After the initial judicial pre-trial using CaseLines, it will be open for use at all subsequent proceedings (e.g. pleas/sentencing, motions/applications or trial). If counsel have concerns about uploading any specific item, they should seek the direction of the Court at a judicial pretrial. Counsel should ensure that this direction is placed on the record at the subsequent court appearance to be endorsed on the indictment or other written record by the Registrar.

Assisting Court office staff

  • Crown and defence counsel are to make every effort to assist the staff at the Criminal administration office in ensuring that CaseLines invitations are sent. Crown and defence counsel should advise the Court office immediately in such situations where counsel receive an inadvertent invitation to upload materials to CaseLines in a child pornography matter, or any matter where the judge has directed counsel not to use CaseLines, or where counsel is aware the accused person is now unrepresented or has changed counsel.
  • In the event that no CaseLines invitation is received and defence and/or Crown counsel become aware of a matter where CaseLines should be used (e.g. a previously self-represented person has retained counsel), they should confer with each other and advise the Criminal administration office.

Access and Use of CaseLines in Criminal

  • In criminal matters, CaseLines access will be limited to the judiciary, court staff, lawyers and their necessary Crown and defence staff requiring access.
  • Counsel are prohibited from inviting their clients/accused persons to access CaseLines.
  • Counsel are required to make other arrangements to share documents, as appropriate, with their clients.[4]
  • No matters involving self-represented persons will use CaseLines.

New Responsibilities for Crown and defence counsel, CSD staff

  • CaseLines does not replace service and court filing. Crown and defence counsel must serve and file materials with the court by email in accordance with the applicable rules in the Criminal Proceedings Rules and Criminal Code and in accordance with the Court’s Practice Directions and Regional Notices.[5]
  • For Judicial pretrials: In the Central East Region, as set out in the Regional Notice[6], counsel are required to file pre-trial forms (Form 17), and attachments by sending forms five days in advance of the judicial pre-trial to the generic email for the trial coordinators in the specific centre. This practice is to continue.
  • Court Services Division must maintain the electronic file in the appropriate system that has been developed for maintaining the Court record.
  • Counsel must have a current email on file with the court. Counsel must ensure that their current email address is included on all court filings.
  • Parties must make CaseLines a trusted sender by saving caselines.com in their contacts list, or regularly check their junk folder for emails from CaseLines.
  • Upon receipt of an email from CaseLines, which will be sent prior to the hearing, click the registration link to register. Counsel can also register in advance at https://ontariocourts.caselines.com/ by clicking on Register. It is recommended that counsel prepare for this by creating an account in CaseLines in advance.
  • For Judicial pretrials, Crown and defence counsel are to upload their joint or respective judicial pretrial forms (Form 17)[7] and any other relevant documents for the pre-trial. Crown counsel will upload any relevant documents (e.g. committal package) and indictment.
  • If the Court provides any direction at a judicial pretrial that a matter should not use CaseLines in an upcoming pretrial motion, plea or trial or any special instructions regarding whether certain documents can/cannot be uploaded onto CaseLines, counsel is responsible for placing this information on the record so that the Registrar can endorse the record in writing.
  • Use the following document naming convention.
    • When documents are submitted to the court in electronic format, the document name must indicate the following information:
      • Document type
      • Type of party submitting the document
      • Name of the party submitting the document (including initials if the name is not unique to the case), and
      • Date on which the document was created or signed, in the format DDMMM-YYYY (e.g. 12-JAN-2021)
  • This simple, user-friendly document naming protocol will allow the judiciary to quickly and easily identify documents during virtual and in-person hearings. This direction has been incorporated into Part C of the Consolidated Notice to the Profession, Litigants, Accused Persons, Public and the Media
  • https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/consolidated-notice/
  • Do not upload the document into CaseLines if requesting a sealing order for that document. Instead, please email the document to the Trial Coordination Office identifying the court file number, the hearing date (if assigned), and requesting that it be emailed to the judge because a sealing order will be sought.
  • If uploading documents that will require the in-court registrar to stamp as exhibits, please upload these documents individually as only one electronic exhibit stamp can be added per document.[8]
  • If other lawyers or their staff require access to the case in CaseLines, counsel may invite them by selecting the “Invite New Participant” button found on the People’s tab on CaseLines but accused persons, victims, witnesses, police are not to be invited.
  • It is recommended that counsel and their staff view one of the training tools that is available on the court’s website and review the Frequently Asked Questions About CaseLines. These tools will help familiarize counsel and their staff with CaseLines and understand how it can help with the materials during the hearing. More live training will be offered prior to the roll out of CaseLines to additional regions.
  • If support to resolve technical issues is required, contact Thomson Reuter’s technical support at 1-800-290-9378 and select either “CaseLines” or “Evidence Sharing” when you reach the directory, or email westlaw.softwaresupport@tr.com. This support is available from 8 AM to 5 PM (Monday – Friday).
  • Suggestions for improvements to CaseLines, should be directed to the Office of the Chief Justice by emailing scj-csj.general@ontario.ca.

In Court Use of CaseLines

  • CaseLines will enable Crown and defence counsel to electronically share documents with the judiciary in advance of the hearing. During the hearing Crown and defence counsel and the judge can view the document on the same electronic format.
  • In cases where the accused person needs to have access to the shared documents, defence counsel will be responsible for making arrangements for hard copies or make other arrangements.

Regional Senior Judge Edwards
Superior Court of Justice

[1] The Court Services Division office for criminal matters may also be referred to as the Court office or Administration office in some centres.

[2] While judicial pretrials do not generally involve the filing of exhibits or evidentiary materials, such items may be filed in the subsequent pre-trial motion, trial or sentencing.

[3] Although the hearing may use CaseLines for all other documents, these specific documents will not be uploaded.

[4] In accordance with any undertakings given not to share copies of such materials as sexual assault interviews.

[5] Please refer to recent rule changes regarding filing in Part IX and X of the Provincial Practice Direction /Amendment to the Criminal Proceedings Rules Regarding Criminal Proceedings, August 12, 2020 https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/practice/practice-directions/criminal/

[6] https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/ce-criminal-notice-jan2021/

[7] Counsel should follow existing local practices regarding the filing of individual or joint (crown/defence) judicial pretrial forms.

[8] If a document is marked as an exhibit during the hearing, Registrars will download the document and retain it in the usual manner exhibits are retained for the court file.