The open court principle is a hallmark of any democratic society. Public access to court proceedings fosters many fundamental values including public confidence in the judicial system, understanding of the administration of justice and judicial accountability.
The open court principle is inextricably linked to the freedom of expression and freedom of the press as protected by s. 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Included within the open court principle is the public’s right to access court records.
The Court of Appeal of Alberta will adopt the attached Policy for Public Access to the Court Record on May 2, 2022. Highlights of the policy include the following:
- Members of the public have a presumptive right to access the entire court record unless access to it is prohibited by a provincial or federal enactment or by court order.
- Members of the public are entitled to know that a case file exists, but public access to the case file is restricted to the court record.
- Members of the public are required to attend at a Registry counter in person to make a search request.
- If access to a court record is not prohibited by an enactment or court order, members of the public may request access to it by completing the Civil Search Request Form or Criminal Request Form and submitting it in person to the applicable Registry.
- If access to a court record is prohibited by an enactment or court order, members of the public may request access to it on application to a judge of the Court.
- Members of the public may request access to Extracts of Key Evidence or a case file by completing the attached Access Request Form: Extracts of Key Evidence or Case File and submitting it in person to the applicable Registry.
- All search requests must be accompanied by an executed Terms and Conditions of Access to the Court Record or Case File in the attached form.
- Questions about the Policy for Public Access to the Court Record can be directed by email to the Court’s Case Management Officer, Bobbi Jo McDevitt, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catherine A. Fraser
Chief Justice of Alberta