Are you ready to learn more about the Court of Appeal for BC and the types of cases it hears?
As the name suggests, this court hears appeals from previously decided cases.
These appeals come from cases heard in the Provincial Court of BC and the Supreme Court of BC and cases heard by administrative tribunals such as the Workerís Compensation Board. An appeal may be made if someone is unhappy with the result or judgment in their case.
In the Court of Appeal, you typically see three or five judges sitting together on the bench to hear appeals. Five judges are required if the court is being asked to overturn one of its own previous decisions. Otherwise, only three judges hear the appeal.
The Court of Appeal hears both civil and criminal cases. You can find out more about the differences between civil and criminal law by looking at the civil law page and criminal law page of our website.
In criminal cases, anyone convicted of a crime can appeal the conviction itself. However, to appeal sentencing, the court must grant the party leave to appeal.
In civil cases, any final order of the Supreme Court can be appealed. However, if the civil case comes from the Small Claims division, it can only be appealed to the Supreme Court of BC and cannot proceed to the Court of Appeal.
An appeal case involves only judges and lawyers and the proceedings are typically held in open courtrooms.
Perhaps the most important thing to know is that this court only decides whether or not the trial decision was correct in law. The judges are not fact finders. Except in very rare cases, no witnesses appear in this court to give evidence.
Instead, judges review the written record of the original trial called the transcript and then determine whether there were any errors made in applying the law.
A rare exception to this practice occurred one time in a murder case where one of the jurors had an affair with one of the accused. At the end of the trial, the accused were found not guilty. Evidence of the affair was never heard in the trial court, so that evidence had to be presented after the Crown appealed the case. One justice of the Court of Appeal heard the new evidence, and it became part of the transcript that the full court was asked to examine.
You should know that other BC courts are bound by the decisions of this court. These courts must follow the law set out by the Court of Appeal for BC.
Appeals do not have to end here in BC, though. If someone is unhappy with the Court of Appeal decision, they may be able to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
In most cases, a panel of three judges needs to grant leave or permission to appeal the case to this court. Leave to appeal is granted based on the courtís assessment of the public importance of the legal issues raised in the case. For instance leave may be granted if the case raised a constitutional issue. In criminal cases where the provincial court of appeal decision has one dissenting judge, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada may be brought as of right which means it does not need to have leave.
All decisions made by the Supreme Court of Canada are final.
The Court of Appeal judges sit regularly at the Law Courts in Vancouver and Victoria and, from time to time, in Kamloops, Kelowna, and Prince George.
The judges of Court of Appeal are also judges of the Yukon Court of Appeal which sits once a year in Whitehorse. Yukon appeals are heard in Vancouver.
Vancouver is the central registry for the Court of Appeal. So, if you were going to file an appeal this is where you would get started.
About half of the judges in the Court of Appeal for BC are women. As well women lawyers appear regularly in the Court and the Court staff is primarily composed of women.
The judges are addressed as Mister or Madam Justice outside the courtroom and as My Lord or My Lady inside the courtroom. As this is a more formal court, the judges and the lawyers wear black robes.
You may have seen or visited Courtroom 50 which is the Heritage courtroom in Vancouver. It brings a little of the past into the more modern building and reminds us of the long history that has built our justice system.
Find out more about this court by visiting its website. You may want to read the reasons for judgment which are posted there for recent decisions.