Because of COVID-19, the balance tips heavily in favour of discharging juries in order to better serve justice as between the parties. And this is no surprise. The opening words of Justice Andromache Karakatsanis in Hryniak v. Mauldin 2014 SCC 7 are particularly prescient in light of current circumstances: “Ensuring access to justice is the greatest challenge to the rule of law in Canada today.”
Striking jury notices will result in the most expeditious and least expensive determination of civil proceedings.
There is no question that the use of jury trials will lead inevitably to additional delays due to COVID-19 as reflected in the Notices to the Profession. Jury matters will remain suspended at least another two months until September — and likely even longer — creating an immense backlog of matters to be heard when regular operations do resume. These delays are substantial, and the continued use of civil juries will also cause insurmountable delays.
As to expenses, civil jury trials are almost twice the cost to run than those with a judge alone. In addition to taking double the time of a judge-alone trial, a jury trial is doubly expensive too. There are increased expenses related to added clerks, judges having to manage jurors, and of course each juror being away from their own job. Indeed, many members of the public — those subject to jury duty — simply cannot afford to sit on jury trials that last for weeks, if not months in civil cases.