If you have a family case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia you will encounter the Judicial Case Conference (“JCC”) early in your court process.
A JCC is a private, informal, without prejudice meeting between you, the other party, your respective lawyers and a Judge or Master of the BC Supreme Court. It provides you with an opportunity, assisted by the court, to:
· share information,
· discuss ways to resolve some or all of your issues and avoid further costly litigation
· if you do not resolve all your issues at the JCC, then obtain a procedural or consent Order such as an order that requires you to exchange documents by a certain date
Here are some common questions that clients have about a JCC.
When is a JCC required?
All parties in Supreme Court are required to attend a JCC prior to an initial hearing on disputed matters. As well, either party can request to have a JCC at any time. In certain circumstances, parties may be excused from the requirement of attending a JCC.
Is a JCC confidential?
Yes, discussions had at a JCC are confidential (or “without prejudice”). While the JCC is recorded, none of the parties or lawyers are permitted to a copy of the recording, unless the Judge or Master makes that Order. Any discussions had can also not be used against either party.
A JCC may result in orders that the parties agree to, which will be set out in a JCC Order and the parties are then bound by the terms in that Order. A Judge or Master will not make any substantive Orders on any issues that are in dispute.
What happens at a JCC?
The Judge or Master will want to know what the issues in dispute are. Part of the discussion at the JCC will be what options there are for resolving the issues in dispute. This may include a discussion about what other family dispute resolution options are available to the parties, including:
· Mediation- Details about mediation can be found here: LINK
· Judicial Settlement Conference – A judicial settlement conference is held before a Judge or Master, who explore all possibilities of settlement of the issues that are outstanding. It is akin to a mediation but with a Judge or Master, or an extended Judicial Case Conference.
· Preparation of a section 211 Report – Details about section 211 Reports can be found here: LINK
· Summary Trial – A summary trial is a trial, but instead of witnesses giving evidence in person, they give their evidence by affidavit. This form of trial is not suitable when there are critical disputes as to the facts. A summary trial will typically result in a final order disposing of the matters in dispute. Sometimes parties will resolve only some of their matters by summary trial.
A Judge or Master may also give a non-binding opinion at the JCC on the probable outcome of a hearing or trial, or direct the parties to attend a further JCC to continue discussions.
A JCC can also be used to take steps in relation to the planning and management of a trial. This can include direction to set a trial date or hearing date, direction to set a trial management conference, procedural orders relating to disclosure and trial management issues.
Where appropriate, the Judge or Master may direct the parties to attend the Parenting After Separation Course.
The Judge or Master may also set a date for interim applications and directions on how those are to proceed.
How do you prepare for a JCC?
Often your lawyer will prepare a JCC Brief for the purposes of setting out the history of the relationship and clarifying the issues in dispute. This Brief is then provided to the Judge or Master and the opposing counsel at the start of the JCC (or prior, if possible).
If they have not done so already, both parties are required to exchange Financial Statements at least 7 days prior to the JCC.
How do JCC’s differ from Trial Management Conferences and Settlement Conferences?
A JCC is a short meeting between the parties, their lawyers and a Judge or Master, for the purposes of attempting resolution on the issues in dispute in a short period of time (approximately 60-90 minutes). This is mandatory early on in a Supreme Court File.
A Trial Management Conference (“TMC”) is a meeting between the parties, their lawyers and a Judge or Master, for the purposes of getting a proceeding ready for trial and are held as the parties are preparing to proceed to trial. This is mandatory prior to a trial occurring.
A Settlement Conference is a meeting between the parties, their lawyers and a Judge or Master, similar to a JCC but are usually set for a day or half a day so that the parties have more time to work towards resolving the issues in dispute. This is not mandatory, and can be held at any time during a proceeding provided the parties are in agreement to attending.
What is the difference between a JCC and a Family Case Conference?
The Provincial Court of B.C. has its own version of a JCC, known as a Family Case Conference (FCC). Unlike the JCC, an FCC is not mandatory, but has the same benefits for resolving issues in dispute as that of a JCC.
Unlike a JCC, which is set by the parties or their lawyers, the only way to get an FCC is by a Judge agreeing to order that one take place.
As well, in a JCC no substantive Orders can be made unless they are by consent. In comparison, a Judge in an FCC has the discretion to make Orders without the consent of a party.