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A Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law
- Implementation -

Version 2 (February 16 2000)

[1]  The current document consists of directions for the implementation of the neutral citation standard. It will enable judges and court administrators to fully understand this new standard.

[2]  The guide consists of three elements that correspond to the major stages of the neutral citation's implementation : 1) Choice of the tribunal identifier; 2) Choice of the attribution method of ordinal numbers; and 3) Start-up of the neutral citation.

1. Choice of the Tribunal Identifier

1.1 Tribunal Identifiers

[3]  The use of a tribunal identifier by the new citation standard is in accordance with traditional uses. However, unlike older methods, the identifiers avoid all internal penetration.

[4]  The tribunal identifier's choice is an important step. The identifier will designate the court or tribunal that renders the decision. We suggest that tribunals rely on the most appropriate judicial authority. Depending on the decisional process of the concerned jurisdiction, the identifier's choice should be made with the consent of the chief justice or with authorities that are in charge of the judicial administration of the jurisdiction.

[5]  These bodies will be able to easily coordinate the choice because the attribution process proceeds in a decentralized fashion. In Ontario, for example, the identifiers could begin with ON, in British Columbia by BC and so on. Thus, the pan-Canadian coordination is minimal (ref. FAQ question #1, for the list of identifiers).

[6]  For the rest, the identifier can rely on the natural or usual acronym of the court or tribunal. Thus, in Quebec, the "Tribunal des droits de la personne" will bear the QCTDP identifier.

[7]  Ideally, the length of the identifiers must be short. Redundancy should be avoided. Considering the previous example, the official name of the "Tribunal des droits de la personne" is : "Tribunal des droits de la personne du Québec". We strongly suggest omitting the reintroduction of the letter "Q" in the identifier. This would result in QCTDPQ which should be avoided.

1.2 Bilingualism, when does a tribunal need two identifiers?

[8]  It is important to determine if the tribunal needs one or two identifiers in order to reflect its linguistic situation.

[9]  The orientation taken by the Committee is as follows : encourage simplicity while respecting the requirements concerning the bilingual nature of certain institutions. Consequently, whenever possible, only one identifier should be used. In other cases, the use of a pair of tribunal identifiers is unavoidable.

1st case    One tribunal identifier

[10]  The citation standard suggests the use of only one identifier derived from the tribunal's name without trying to denote the language in cases where tribunals

  1. usually render their decisions in one official language;
  2. are not upheld to bilingualism or, if they are bilingual, use the same acronym for their French and English names.

[11]  Example for British Columbia's Court of Appeal :

[12]  Example for Quebec's Court of Appeal :

[13]  When required, if French and English versions of a decision are available, these tribunals will be able to denote a linguistic version by adding "E" or "F" to the tribunal's identifier code.

[14]  Example for the "Tribunal des droits de la personne du Québec" :

[15]  As the examples illustrate it, when one identifier is used often the language of the decision is only revealed by the style of cause.

2nd case    Two tribunal identifiers

[16]  In cases where tribunals systematically render decisions in both official languages, or if they are bilingual and the acronyms for their French and English names differ, two identifiers will be used. The citation to one of the texts of a decision will be based on the use of the appropriate identifier of the tribunal.

[17]  Thus, for the Federal Court of Canada, the citation in English and French will be as follow:

3rd case    Two tribunal identifiers

[18]  Many tribunals have two official names even if they usually render their decisions in only one official language. These tribunals can use two identifier codes corresponding to their respective names so as to appropriately reflect their bilingual status. The citation will be able to refer to one or the other code.

[19]  Example for New Brunswick's Court of Queen's Bench :

Note : In both examples, only the style of cause reveals the language, here the English.

2. Choice of the attribution method of ordinal numbers

[20]  The use of an ordinal number aims to provide a decision's specific element in the new citation standard. The standard once again favors simplicity. However, the standard must make room for complex judicial structures. Thus, the attribution of ordinal numbers will vary according to the structure of the tribunal and the complexity of its case management system.

2.1 Tribunals' Structure

a -- Simple Structure Tribunal

[21]  We suggest the use of a set of numbers that start at one (1) at the beginning of each year. For example, the citation to the first decisions of the Manitoba Court of Appeal for the year 2000 would have the following format according to the standard:

[22]  Generally, this assignation would be accomplished at the clerk's office whenever the decision is registered. Each time a decision is up for registration, clerk's office staff assigned it the next available ordinal number. We will discuss at greater length the process further in this text.

b -- Complex Tribunals

i. Centralized Management

[23]  Many complex tribunals are decentralized on a vast territory. Nonetheless, they still use only one clerk's office. The model that should be used is the one relative to the simple structure (see 2.1 - a).

ii. Decentralized Management *

[24]  The general idea behind a decentralized management is to use series in order to reflect the decentralization of the judicial structure.

[25]  This attribution of ordinal numbers can be achieved by adding a unique numerical prefix to each decentralized clerk's office. For example, a decentralized Ontario tribunal would have a 01 prefix for London, 02 for Toronto and 03 for Ottawa. Thus, the ordinal numbers could be the following :

[26]  In this case, the use of a fix-length prefix (as 02) and number for the sub-series (as 2) enable the decentralization management of the sub-series.

2.2 Process Definition

[27]  Another difficulty arising from the ordinal number attribution process is the one concerning the entity in charge, the moment of the attribution as well as the location of the inscription of the ordinal number.

a -- Who?

[28]  The person in charge of the clerk's office during the decision's registration. This person is in best position to act as an ordinal number manager. It goes without saying that according to specific functions of different institutions, different persons, such as judges' secretaries could accomplish the inscription of the ordinal number. Even in those cases, the number will previously be obtained by the clerk's office or by an automated system under his surveillance.

b -- When?

[29]  We suggest the moment of the inscription at the clerk's office. Actually, the moment the ordinal number is added to the decision determines only the rank of the decisions according to each other. This ranking does not play a significant role in the identification of the decisions that constitutes the objective of the standard. Tribunals will be in position to determine the exact moment of the citation's inscription that is best suitable for their process.

c -- Where?

[30]  First of all, the citation must be noted inside the decision's file. This way the citation will be guaranteed to follow naturally the decision in all following steps of its circulation.

[31]  Furthermore, the citation is elaborated to help the identification of files. It is strongly recommended to use it as such. If files bear the name of their official citation, it results in a more convenient handling of collections for the creation of internal and public information systems.

3. Start-up of the Neutral Citation

1. Moment of start-up

[32]  January 1rst seems a logical choice to begin use of the new standard, but the insertion of the new citation must be done as soon as possible even though that may be in the middle of the year.

[33]  Those that are able to do so should start the insertion of the neutral citation in their documents at the beginning a new year. That way, the cutting point will be clear, the numerotation will start with the year. It may easily be done in the first months, since it will not imply a lot of retrospective work.

[34]  Those who choose to implement the new citation in the middle of a year, we suggest to introduce the new standard at the beginning of a month. We further propose to start the ordinal number sequence at a value permitting future retroactive introduction of the citation for decisions from the beginning of that year. That means that a tribunal publishing one thousand decisions a year and wishes to introduce the new citation on June 1st may start the serial number at 1001 to make room for the numbering of decisions rendered since the beginning of the year. This situation would also help handle the case where one would consider appropriate to retrospectively add the citation in old decisions.

[35]  However, the Committee does not recommend retroactive work. We wish the use of the neutral citation be focused on the future instead of leading the judicial administration into more costly retroactive works.

*  The Committee has modified this paragraph. Essentially, the Committee wants to simplify the use and description of the ordinal number.

[Bruno Ménard, 2000-02-16, updated by F.P., 2003-02-06]

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