Civil & Family Matters
Civil law – as opposed to criminal law – is the area of law that deals with disputes between people or organizations. Family law issues are included under civil law, along with many other subjects such as disputes about contracts, estates, property, commercial ventures, law applied by administrative tribunals (like the Automobile Injury Appeal Commission or the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board), and torts (a wrongful act, like trespass or medical malpractice).
Parties may have a civil matter heard by a lower court or tribunal. The party who lost the case may want to have that decision reviewed by a higher court in the hope that it will be reversed or changed. In such cases, an “appeal” is made to the Court of Appeal. To start an appeal, the appellant (the party appealing a decision from a lower court or tribunal) files (a) an application for leave (permission) to appeal (where permission is required) or (b) a notice of appeal, in the Court of Appeal registry office. There are other steps in the appeal process, and these guidebooks will explain these steps and show you the forms you must file.
Not every court decision can be appealed. An appeal is not a new trial. There are no witnesses or juries. You cannot present new evidence to the judges hearing the appeal (except in special circumstances). The order that you are appealing is not necessarily stayed (stopped) just because an appeal is underway.
The Court of Appeal judges will not change the decision under appeal just because it seems somewhat unfair or they might have decided the matter differently. There must be a legal reason for them to intervene. You must show that the decision is incorrect because the decision-maker made a mistake in understanding the facts of your case or in applying the law that applies to your case. Even if a mistake was made, you must also show that the mistake significantly affected the outcome of your case.
The minimum and usual number of judges who will hear an appeal is three. On rare occasions, where an appeal is very complex or important, five or seven judges may hear an appeal. At the hearing, the judges will consider presentations made by both parties.
A corporation must be represented by a lawyer for all matters before the Court of Appeal. If you are an individual, you do not have to be represented by a lawyer to appear in the court. But, if you represent yourself in court, it is wise to first meet with a lawyer and have him or her explain the law to you and learn the best way to present your appeal. He or she can also explain your chances of winning or losing the appeal. The staff in the Court of Appeal’s registry office, including the registrar, can explain the appeal process to you but this procedural guidance is not a substitute for legal advice.
You should be aware that the court usually orders the party who loses an appeal to pay costs to the other party. Costs for an appeal can amount to hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of dollars. This is on top of any other fees or costs you must pay for each step in the appeal process.