Posted by Graeme Maitland — filed in Litigation
Court can be a scary place for people. One of the best things that lawyers do is act as a navigator, not just for your legal issue, but to the court system itself. By demystifying the court experience, lawyers make clients feel more comfortable and at ease. In an effort to better explain the court system, here are three things that clients ask about all the time.
In Alberta, people will normally be dealing with either Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench. Provincial Court is an inferior court, as it is run entirely by the Province of Alberta. Many matters dealt with in Provincial Court, like small claims or some family matters, are usually dealt with quicker.
The Court of Queen’s Bench is a superior court because its judges are appointed by the Federal Government. It has more power than the Provincial Court, and deals with things like divorce, probate, and civil matters over $50,000. But, while it is a superior court, it is the lowest superior court.
Decisions from both the Provincial Court and Queen’s Bench can be appealed to the Court of Appeal, the highest court in Alberta. Here, lawyers argue strictly about the law. The only court higher than this is the Supreme Court in Ottawa. There are other courts that operate in Alberta, like the Federal Court, which deals with specialized areas of law such as admiralty or intellectual property, and Tax Court, which deals with tax, but most people do not deal with these on a regular basis.
Watch any American movie or television show that involves a court scene and you will hear a judge being addressed as “You Honour”. In Canada this is not always the case.
If you are in Provincial Court, the Judge is referred to as “Your Honour”. Judges of the Provincial Court can be recognized by their blue sashes when they wear their robes.
If you are in the Court of Queen’s Bench (or the Court of Appeal), the Judges are called Justices and are referred to as “My Lord” or “My Lady”. Justices of the Court of Queen’s Bench can be recognized by their red sashes when they wear their robes.
In Alberta there is one other type of Judge called a Master. They are part of the Court of Queen’s Bench but do not have the same power as a Justice. A Master, regardless of gender, is referred to as “Master” followed by their last name like “Master Smith”.
Again, because of the United States, many people expect to see jury boxes in every court room and dread getting called for jury duty. But Canada does not use jury trials nearly as often as the United States. In Canada, there are two kinds of jury trial: a criminal or a civil trial.
A criminal jury has 12 jurors and is only required in serious criminal cases (such as murder). Most criminal matters are heard before a Judge alone, either at Provincial Court of the Court of Queen’s Bench.
A civil jury has 6 jurors and is rarely used. Unlike a criminal jury, which requires unanimity in their decision of guilt, only 5 of the 6 jurors need to agree in a civil jury.
If you require a lawyer to assist you in a matter before the courts, contact one of the lawyers at Aarbo Fuldauer LLP in Calgary.
Address: 3rd Floor, 1131 Kensington Road NW, Calgary, AB, T2N 3P4
Phone: (403) 571-5120