Garton & Harris

The British Columbia court system

The B.C. Court of Appeal hears both civil and criminal appeals, and it has been the highest court in British Columbia for over 100 years. However, the Court of Appeal does not hear appeals of civil cases involving sums of less than $25,000. These cases initially go before a Provincial Court, and appeals are sent to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Civil cases involving more than $25,000 are heard by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and these cases that may be appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Sometimes civil appeals are heard in chambers by a single justice, but Court of Appeal cases usually go before a panel of three justices. However, a panel of five justices hears some important cases. When a case is heard in chambers, a panel of three justices subsequently reviews the decision. These panels are drawn from a pool of 20 justices who are headed by the Chief Justice of British Columbia.

Most appeals are heard in Vancouver, but panels of justices may also sit in Kelowna, Victoria and Kamloops. In addition to the 20 justices, the Court of Appeal has a registrar. The procedure for civil appeals is laid down in the Court of Appeal Rules and the Court of Appeal Act. However, case law might also direct the appeals process.

Civil litigation can be complex in British Columbia, and thorny legal issues can arise in cases that seem straightforward. An experienced lawyer may be able to offer insight to both plaintiffs and defendants about aspects of a case that may give rise to an appeal. A lawyer could also help their clients to seek a settlement to avoid the uncertainty of a court action and the expense of prolonged litigation.

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