LESA’s Alberta Civil Practice Manual was recently updated (spring 2023) thanks to the dedicated work of our volunteers. Michael Bokhaut is a partner at Carbert Waite LLP and assisted with Chapter 7 of the manual, which outlines summary judgments and summary trials.
This week, the LESA blog would like to spotlight Michael’s career in law, and his contributions to this manual.
Michael’s interest in law began after he completed his undergraduate degree in business. During law school, Michael was drawn to moot court and has been interested in litigation ever since.
Michael enjoys a fast-paced environment and having to think on his feet. Despite the pressure that comes with this area of practice, Michael finds it gratifying to answer a probing question from the court or find a creative solution to an issue presented by opposing counsel.
“I’ve been doing this for 10+ years, but I still do a little dance or go for a round of high-fives when a matter is settled, or a decision comes out favorably for the client.”
As a LESA volunteer, Michael enjoys having the opportunity to teach from his experience and share the lessons that he has learned throughout his career. Chapter 7 of this manual provides an in-depth overview of two legal mechanisms, summary judgments and summary trials. Each are used to expedite court proceedings and avoid many of the costs and delays associated with proceeding to trial.
Summary judgments are first heard by an Applications Judge and are a powerful tool to resolve disputes early in the litigation process. While the Courts have expressed eagerness to see more disputes resolved via summary judgment, it has several risks. If the Court does not find the matter suitable for summary judgment, the parties may be left without a substantive decision. Another shortfall is that a losing party can easily appeal a decision to a Justice and may submit additional evidence to substantiate their case. This can create delay or force the successful party to re-litigate the same issue.
Conversely, a summary trial brings the same finality as a formal trial. Appeals of these decisions are brought to the Court of Appeal, and submitting additional evidence is generally not permitted. Summary trial relies on affidavit evidence alone. It involves a two-step process that begins with an initial application to determine whether the matter is suitable for a summary trial. If approved, the second step involves a hearing (the summary trial itself) where a Justice will hear the merits of the dispute.
Choosing between pursuing summary trial or summary judgment depends on several factors including the complexity of the file, the strength of the documentary evidence, and the level of disagreement over key facts. While each forum has its benefits and risks, neither is suited to disputes without a strong documentary record, or to “he said, she said” disputes.
Thank you to Michael and to all our volunteers who worked to update this manual this past spring. To purchase a hardcopy of this manual, click here. To access this manual electronically on the LESA Library you can subscribe to either the Civil Litigation collection or to the complete LESA Library. For subscription options and pricing, click here.
LESA also wishes to acknowledge Aviaah Randhawa for her contributions to this chapter.