In the 19th Century, English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham warned against secrecy in the administration of justice: “Where there is no publicity there is no justice. Publicity is the very soul of justice. It is the keenest spur to exertion and the surest of all guards against improbity. It keeps the judge himself while trying under trial.” Those words still ring true today. In countries sharing the common law tradition, the open courts principle is a fundamental, indeed a constitutional principle.
Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, P.C.
Chief Justice of Canada
The Court handles Family Law Act matters in several different ways, depending on the length of the hearing required. If the applicant anticipates short hearing, less than 20 minutes for both parties, the application can be scheduled 5 days in advance in Family Law Chambers.
If the applicant believes the hearing will take longer, Family Special Chambers hearing must be booked, after getting the dates from the court clerk and getting an agreement on the date from the other party. "1 hour" and "half-day" bookings can be made, available dates are typically 4 months to 1 year in advance. Booking longer hearings uses different procedure.
I have attended a hearing in the Calgary Courts Centre courtroom 1004 several times. This courtroom is special. It seems to be assigned to hearing self-represented litigants. The court procedure is irregular.
Normal court procedure is well established: the applicant (or plaintiff, in the legal lingo) presents his/her case to the court first; then the repondent (or defendant) presents their case; the Court may ask some questions, and make a judgement.
The procedure in courtroom 1004 is very diferent. The self-represented parties present their case to "duty counsel" before the Court starts. After the Court starts, and the Justice is present, the duty counsel introduces the case for both parties. In practice, that means that the Court hears the case re-interpreted through the duty counsel, who may or may have not got it right. I have personally observed the duty counsel getting it very wrong.
One method how to avoid the middleman is to give the duty counsel written instructions. They are lawyers, and some are ethical enough to follow the instructions. My instructions typically include a statement that I do not want them to present any part of my case, and that I intend to present my case myself. Example is here: Instructions for Duty Counsel, April 24, 2017. These instructions worked, the duty counsel said nothing beyound introducing the parties and stepped down.
I have had the experience of dealing with one duty counsel who refused to read the instruction sheet, refused to give me her name, and misrepresented the facts to the court afterwards. I prepared the Instructions for Duty Counsel, May 3, 2017. I gave the duty counsel the instruction sheet, but she refused to read the instructions, and she refused to identify herself, because "she is a friend of the court". I have later learned her name from the transcript.
FL01-17010 Rensonnet v. Uttl Hearing on April 24, 2017 to set date for Domestic Special
FL01-17010 Rensonnet v. Uttl Hearing on May 3, 2017 to change parenting schedule