The process of hearing applications for summary judgment in Saskatchewan is changing. Effective November 1, 2019, General Application Practice Directive #9 will apply to both civil and family summary judgment applications, as well as all originating applications for judicial review.

Counsel must still bring the application on at least 14 days' notice, returnable on a regular Chambers date. However, the new Practice Directive turns the first date that the application comes before a Chambers judge into a quasi-case management.

The presiding judge retains the ability to proceed with the application that day, but they may also elect to manage the application. This could include determining the parties' readiness to proceed, deciding the amount of time necessary to hear the application, resolving preliminary issues and, when appropriate, ordering that a special date and time for the application be scheduled.

At the initial appearance, parties should be prepared to speak to their readiness to proceed, provide an estimate of the time required for the hearing, identify any preliminary issues and advise whether the matter is urgent. After the initial appearance, the hearing date will be scheduled as soon as possible, having regard to the issues raised by the application.

This new Practice Directive represents a shift towards the process followed in Edmonton and Calgary, where lengthy applications – such as summary judgment – are heard in scheduled "special" or "afternoon" Chambers.

There are certainly some questions regarding this new Practice Directive – in particular whether summary judgment applications will now be held at fixed times, in the afternoon of regular Chambers dates, or if special dates and times will be scheduled.

However, at least at first blush, the new Practice Directive appears to be a positive step forward. Counsel who appear on summary judgment matters – traditionally placed to the foot of the list – will not have to wait through hours of other applications before being heard. Judges will be able to come into a summary judgment application fresh, without having had to sit through and manage a lengthy Chambers list. Preliminary issues may be dealt with before the application is heard in full.

All of this could certainly result in more efficient use of the Court's time, counsel's time and clients' resources – something that would certainly be welcomed by all parties.

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