In what is assumed to be another step in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of cases in an already overloaded Court system, the Civil Rules Committee has enacted amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure, which will provide a further tool for the Court to dismiss proceedings without a full hearing on the merits.
There are already a number of rules available which allow the Court to administratively dismiss actions. For example, Rule 48 allows the Court to administratively dismiss actions, on notice, where they have not been set down for trial within two years after the date the first defence was filed, or where no defence has been filed within 180 days of the commencement of the action.
Beginning July 1, 2014, the Court will also be able to dismiss actions, on its own initiative, which it considers to be vexatious, frivolous or otherwise an abuse of process.
Newly enacted Rule 2.1.01(1) will provide that “the Court may, on its own initiative, stay or dismiss a proceeding if the proceeding appears on its face to be frivolous or vexatious or otherwise an abuse of the process of the Court”.
While it was already open to the parties to a proceeding to bring a motion to dismiss it, on the grounds that it is frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process of the Court, pursuant to Rules 21 and 25, the Court will now be able to do so without the need for any party to take any steps.
If the Court elects to exercise its option under the new Rule, it will send a notice to the party who commenced the proceeding in question. That party will have fifteen days thereafter to file written submissions responding to the Court’s notice. Where that party does file submissions, the Defendant or Respondent to the proceeding will have ten days thereafter to file its/their written submissions. Submissions of the parties will be limited to those in writing and will be subject to a ten page limit, unless the Court decides to order otherwise. In theory, a streamlined and summary dismissal process will be implemented under this new Rule.
Analogous provisions will also come into force for motions that the Court deems to be frivolous, vexatious or otherwise an abuse of process, while others will relate to section 140 of the Courts of Justice Act, which deals with Applications seeking to declare a party a vexatious litigant.
While it is anticipated that the Court will only rely upon the new Rule in the clearest of cases where it is obvious on the face of the originating process that it ought to be struck, it should, nonetheless, alleviate some of the strain on the Motions Court, which will hopefully no longer need to hear motions involving such seriously defective claims.