There are three levels of court in British Columbia. The first level, the Provincial Court, is a trial court that hears the majority of criminal cases, including those involving youth. It also hears small claims cases under $25,000, traffic cases, and some family matters.
The Supreme Court is the highest trial court in British Columbia. It hears civil cases over $25,000, family law cases involving divorce and custody, as well as serious criminal cases. The Supreme Court also hears appeals of Provincial Court cases.
The Court of Appeal is the highest court in the province. It hears appeals from:
There are currently 20 justices in the Court of Appeal, headed by The Chief Justice of British Columbia. Some matters are heard in chambers, before a single justice. A decision of a justice in chambers may be reviewed by a panel of three justices. The court sits as a division or panel of three judges most of the time. For some important cases, the court sits as a division of five judges.
The Court of Appeal sits regularly in Vancouver, and from time to time in Victoria, Kamloops, and Kelowna. The judges of the British Columbia Court of Appeal are also judges of the Yukon Court of Appeal. The Yukon Court of Appeal sits once a year in Whitehorse. Yukon appeals are sometimes heard in BC court locations, such as Vancouver.
The practice and procedure of the Court of Appeal is governed by legislation and decisions of the courts.
Procedure in civil matters is governed by the Court of Appeal Act, the Court of Appeal Rules, case law, practice directives issued by the Chief Justice and practice notes issued by the Registrar.
Procedure in criminal matters is governed by the Criminal Code, the Court of Appeal Criminal Appeal Rules, case law, practice directives issued by the Chief Justice, and practice notes issued by the Registrar.
Other statutes and rules may govern in specific situations, such as extradition and appeals and reviews from administrative bodies.
The CourtofAppealBC.ca website is an Online Help Guide that provides information for self-representing litigants. The information provides a clear roadmap of how civil and criminal cases move through the court. A series of guidebooks and videos help explain court processes.
There is an informative video on the 100 years history of the BC Court of Appeal: Though the Heavens Fall.
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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