In a recent Bulletin about government services and fees, we wrote about a new database that allows you to search court records. The database went online on October 1, and was free to use until October 31, when it would become a fee service, $7 per search. We learned Friday that the government is extending the free trial period until November 30.
The site is a great resource. Or, it has the potential to be so, if its flaws can improve and the government adopts a sensible system for payment. The flaws, so far, include:
- a somewhat Byzantine route to the search engines itself (the link above should get you there more directly than the link we were originally using),
- painfully slow search times (tip: don’t search during lunch hour; that’s when, we’ve learned, the database administrators back up the records), and
- limited information: at the moment, copies of the documents filed with court are not available, nor can you search the Court of Appeal’s records, so the database can’t really tell you the substance of any litigation, or whether it was appealed.
- Despite its limitations, the database is a convenient way to find out whether a particular person is, or has been, involved in any litigation. So we started to take advantage of the database while it was free, by doing some research on, among others, companies that are promoting unsustainable energy projects in British Columbia. We’ll be writing about the results of our research in future Bulletins.
- In the meantime, if you have any reason to explore court records for the names of individuals (including politicians) or companies, you’ll want to take advantage of this site while it’s free.
- And you might consider e-mailing Court Services Online at agcso@Victoria1.gov.bc.ca with this suggestion: that, when they make e-search a fee service, they allow the public to search names to find out whether there is any litigation involving that party, and only charge for further searches to learn more about that litigation, obtain copies of records, et cetera. That way, at least the public would have the right to find out whether a person was involved in litigation, and would only have to pay to learn more about cases that seem relevant.