A Case Planning Conference can be a great tool to use to set down deadlines in the litigation process in complex cases involving numerous parties, if matters are contentious or where a self-represented litigant is involved. Part 5 of the British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules sets out the steps and rules governing the procedure and requirements. The parties are required to prepare a case plan proposal setting out particulars of major steps taken in the litigation process and what the perceived issues are between the parties.
Self-represented litigants are required to follow the Supreme Court Civil Rules just like a lawyer. Unfortunately, the self-represented litigant will have lesser knowledge of the Rules and oftentimes misunderstandings arise between counsel and the litigant. Communication can be challenging giving rise to issues such as delays in the litigation process, disagreement over document production and disagreement over setting down examination for discovery. Counsel dealing with self-represented litigants often find themselves in the position where they are having to explain each request and proposed step, only to be met with opposition. The litigant will usually be suspicious of counsel’s motives.
Either the self-represented litigant or counsel can request a Case Planning Conference to be held in court in front of a judge. The judge will act as a neutral and independent party who can set down deadlines by which parties much complete specific steps in the litigation proceeding, clarify misunderstandings and make decisions regarding some of the issues between the parties. Holding an early Case Planning Conference can diffuse contentious situations, stem the flow of unnecessary chambers applications and letters and give direction to self-represented litigants so they better understand the litigation process.
Although the court relies on parties in an action to act appropriately and efficiently, this should not bar anyone from using a Case Planning Conference to help resolve issues.