New Rules of Court Update: Contested Applications At CPC's and TMC's
(Note: this area of law is still developing, for a further case addressing this issue click here)
Two of the biggest changes under the New Supreme Court Rules are the introduction of Case Planning Conferences and mandatory Trial Management Conferences (CPC’s and TMC’s).
The New Rules give the Court significant powers to make various orders with respect to the conduct of lawsuits at these hearings. Interesting reasons were recently brought to my attention addressing the limit of the Court to address contested matters at CPC’s and TMC’s.
In the recent case (Vernon v. British Columbia (Liquor Distribution Branch)) the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for wrongful dismissal. As the lawsuit progressed the parties attended a Trial Management Conference. At the TMC the Defendant asked for various orders including an adjournment of the upcoming trial and a partial publication ban of the trial. These applicaitons were contested by the Plaintiff. Mr. Justice Goepel dismissed the applications finding that TMC’s and CPC’s were inappropriate forums for contested applications. The Court provided the following reasons:
 The issue in this case is whether counsel’s statements provide a sufficient evidentiary foundation for the orders that the defendant seeks. The applications for an adjournment and a publication ban both require the exercise of judicial discretion to consider competing interests. In the case of the adjournment, the contest is between the defendant’s need for additional time to prepare its case and the potential prejudice to the plaintiff if the case is adjourned. With regard to the publication ban, the court must weigh the salutary effect
 The adjournment and publication ban applications both require a proper evidentiary foundation. Statements of counsel alone are not sufficient. To paraphrase Lambert J.A. in Nichols, where statements of counsel stand alone, it will be a rare case that such statements will be sufficient to justify a finding of fact that would permit the exercise of judicial discretion. This is not such a case.
 While CPCs and TMCs have a role to play in the orderly progress of litigation, they are not generally the forum to determine contested applications. Such applications will usually require affidavit evidence and pursuant to the provisions of Rule 12-2(11) and 5-3(2) applications requiring affidavit evidence cannot to be heard at such conferences. In this case affidavit evidence is necessary to determine the defendant’s applications for an adjournment and a publication ban. Those applications cannot be heard at a TMC.
 This is not to say that a judge cannot make orders at a CPC or a TMC. Clearly, a judge can. Many of the orders contemplated at such a conference will not require applications or affidavit evidence. The Rules allow a judge to make an order absent an application. Many of the orders suggested in the respective rules are procedural in nature and more in the nature of directions. Such orders can be based on the representations of counsel. An example is the present application concerning the order of proceedings at trial.