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The Court Structure Jurisdiction • The word “jurisdiction” is very often used in the courts. It is used in 2 ways and may refer to either a) the nature or type of case brought before the court (ex: civil, criminal, divorce, bankruptcy etc..) OR b) the geographic location of the province where the court holds its sitting and hears its cases. The Municipal Court • Each city or municipality in the province is given the right to set up a Municipal Court. • Except for Montreal, Laval and Quebec Cities, the municipal court is usually a “part time” court, sitting one or two evening/afternoons a week. • This is simply because there are generally not enough cases to occupy a court on a full time basis. • In Montreal, Laval and Quebec Cities, the Municipal Courts maintain a full time schedule, often with several courtroom sessions at the same time. Municipal Court Cont’d • The Municipal Court has jurisdiction to hear matters related to violations of municipal by laws (traffic, health, zoning, noise) and criminal matters (mischief, shoplifting, theft under $1000). • This court does not hear civil cases in which a person is suing someone else for money owed. The Court of Quebec • Cases that fall within the jurisdiction of the court of Quebec are brought to this court and heard by one judge. • This court has the authority to hear civil and criminal cases. • There is a Youth Division and an Expropriation Division. • The following are generally the types of cases heard in Quebec courts: The Court of Que. Con’t a) where the value claimed, or the contract in dispute, is between $3000 and $30 000 b) to cancel a lease where the amount claimed for rent and damages is less than $30 000 c) to uncover unpaid municipal or school taxes d) to cancel a real estate valuation on which taxes would be assessed. • A judgment of the Court of Quebec can be appealed only in the Court of Appeal only if the value of the object of dispute is greater than $20 000. A value below that amount cannot be appealed. Small Claims Court • Small claims court was organized in 1972 by the Province in an effort to relieve the pressure and backlog of the higher courts. • An important objective is to enable people to obtain faster and less expensive settlements. • This Court uses the inquisitive method. One judge hears the parties, asks them about the relevant facts, and renders a decision. • In order to meet the objectives, some restrictions apply: Small Claims Court Cont’d • a) The claim must be less than $3000 • b) The claim must arise out of a contract, or from an accident which resulted in damage. • c) The debtor (person sued) must live or have a place of business in Quebec. • d) The debt must be owed personally or directly to the creditor (person being sued). • e) Lawyers are not permitted to represent people in this court. Small Claim Court Cont’d • A person suing or being sued in this Court should come to the court in person. If it is impossible to do so, a “mandate” (authority to act for another person) may be given in writing to someone else who can then represent this person, but this must be done without charge. • If a business is sued, or is being sued, it must be represented by a director or officer who is a full time employee of the business, and in this case, the employee may be a lawyer. Small Claim Court Cont’d • There is NO appeal from judgments of the Small Claims Court. Once the decision or judgment is rendered, the money owed must be paid within 10 days. If it is not, the creditor has then right to return to the Court to request that the debtor’s salary or property (movables only) be seized to satisfy the judgement. The Superior Court • This is the Court of Original General Jurisdiction. This means that it hears every case that is brought to court for the first time unless a paragraph of law directs that such a case be brought before another court (ex: if the amount is below $30 000, or if it an adoption matter etc..) • The Superior Court has superintending power over all other courts in the province, except the Court of Appeal. This means that if another court exceeds its jurisdiction, a request may be made to the Superior Court to remedy the situation. The Superior Court Cont’d • Most decisions of the Superior Court may be appealed. • Judges of the Superior Court are appointed by the federal government. • The salary levels of the judges are set by the Parliament. • Superior Courts are the highest level of court in a province, with the power to review actions of lower courts. The Court of Appeal • This is the general Court of Appeal for the province. • It is the Court to which appeals are brought from the Superior Court, and in special cases, from the Quebec Court. • It has “appellate jurisdiction” (the right to hear appeals) over all cases where an appeal is allowed by law, except where the law specifically says the appeal must be heard by a different body. The Court of Appeal Cont’d • In the Court of Appeal, each case is heard by more than one judge—there may be 3, 5, or even 7 judges who listen and decide a case. • Decisions are made by a majority of the judges present. • Any judge who disagrees with the other judges may write a “dissenting opinion” in which the reasons for the differing opinion are set out. The Supreme Court of Canada • This is the highest Court in Canada, and is the final court to which one may bring appeals in all matters, civil or criminal. • There is only one Supreme Court of Canada, and it hears appeals from all of the courts in all of provinces of the country. • There are nine (9) judges in this court, appointed by the federal gov’t. The judges are chosen from across Canada, with three of them being always from Quebec. The Supreme Court of Canada Cont’d • Cases are heard by an odd number of judges, and the decisions are made by the majority. The Federal Court of Canada • This special Court deals with matters that concern the federal gov’t. • The jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Canada includes specialized areas such as copyright and maritime law. It also reviews decisions of federally appointed administrative tribunals such as the Immigrant Appeal Board and the National Parole Board. Discussion Questions: • 1) A person has the right to be represented by a lawyer in any civil matter before all courts except one. Which one? Why does the law provide this exception? • 2) Explain the meaning of “…maximum jurisdiction of the Court is $30 000.” To which court does this apply? • 3) In which court would the following cases be heard? • a) Steve bought a $ 500 carpet. After it was delivered to him, he found it was damaged. He wants to sue the store for the cost of repairs. • b) A case involving a claim for $46 000 is about to be heard by a judge in a Court of Quebec. One of the parties wants to stop the proceedings. • c) Jodi lent $1, 800 to her friend Natalie who was supposed to pay her back in 2 months. It is now one year later, and not one cent has been repaid.
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