Last week we posted Don’t Assume [Part 1] in which we explained how to research coming into force dates for Ontario statutes. In this post we’d like to dispel some common assumptions and myths about court decisions.
The most common assumption/myth about court decisions is that every case that was ever decided is available. The reality is that not every case is readily available. If a case wasn’t published in a print law report or added to a database, you have to go to the registry of the courthouse where the action was heard; if the decision is old enough you may have to go to the Archives of Ontario.
More myths about cases:
“If a case has a neutral citation from a court, it’s available in the commercial databases or CanLII.”
Not so. Sometimes these cases aren’t in any of those sources.
“If a case went to the Court of Appeal then the trial decision must be available in the online databases or CanLII.”
Again, no. See above.
“All cases are in English.”
No. Some Canadian courts provide decisions in both French and English, but mostly the decisions are in the language in which the proceedings took place.
“Official translations are available for all cases.”
A variation of the assumption “All cases are in English”, supra; you may have to hire someone to translate the case for you. Unless you need an official translation of Stratton v Swanlond, Y.B. 48 Edw. 3, fol 6, pl 2 – since it’s dated 1375, you are out of luck.
“I want the decision in a jury trial.”
In jury trials, no reasons are given, so there’s nothing to report.
The Great Library staff will do its best to help you to locate a decision – just ask. Sometimes we can pull a rabbit out of a hat for you, but if we can’t, please see the above.
— Updated and re-posted from our blog, August 20, 2015