Frequently Asked Questions
- Civil Matters
- Criminal Matters
- Family Matters
- Probate and Administration
1. What is the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is the superior court of civil and criminal jurisdiction in the province. It was created by the Judicature Act and has two divisions: Trial Division and Court of Appeal. The Trial Division is comprised of the General Division and Family Division. The Chief Justice of Newfoundland and Labrador and five other justices make up the Court of Appeal. The Chief Justice of the Trial Division and nineteen other justices make up the Trial Division.
These FAQs deal only with the Trial Division
2. Where are the Supreme Court Centres in Newfoundland and Labrador?
The Supreme Court has six centres in this province: St. John's; Grand Bank; Gander; Grand Falls-Windsor; Corner Brook; and, Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
3. What kinds of matters are heard in the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court's jurisdiction come from the Judicature Act and is general and very broad. It deals with civil claims, probate, administration and guardianship, and family and criminal matters. It is also the appeal court for summary conviction and small claims matters heard in the Provincial Court
1. What kind of civil cases does the Supreme Court hear?
These are some of the most common examples: tort claims, such as actions for personal injuries and other causes based on negligence and trespass; contract disputes; mechanics' lien actions; defamation actions; real and personal property disputes; Quieting of Titles actions; partnership disputes; guardianship; and, actions to interpret wills and other testamentary instruments, and trusts.
2. Is there any monetary limit on the civil cases that are heard in the Supreme Court?
No. The court's monetary jurisdiction in unlimited, although the Provincial Court has jurisdiction to hear claims if the amount involved does not exceed $25,000, and those matters are usually heard in that court. Please note that the Provincial Court's monetary jurisdiction is set by the Small Claims Regulations and may change from time to time.
3. How do I begin a civil claim in the Supreme Court?
Civil actions are started by originating application or statement of claim. The procedure for starting and continuing actions in the Supreme Court is set out in the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986.
4. If I am sued in the Supreme Court what do I do?
Actions in the Supreme Court are started by statement of claim or originating application. If you are served with an originating application or statement of claim you have to reply within fixed time limits by filing a response or defence if you want to avoid judgment being obtained against you by default.
5. How do I file a defence?
A defence is a response to a statement of claim. You generally have ten days after you are served with a statement of claim to file a defence. A defence should address the claims made against you and state clearly the reason you are defending the action.
6. How do I respond to an originating application?
The hearing date for an originating application will be stated on the document you receive. You do not have to file a written response but you should if you disagree with anything in the origination application. Your response will be helpful to the judge if you do. You normally have ten days from when you are served with an application before the hearing, but please check the date carefully and contact the court if you have any questions.
7. May I represent myself in the Supreme Court?
Yes, you may represent yourself. However, some cases in the Supreme Court are complex and require extensive legal knowledge.
8. Does the Supreme Court provide forms that I can use?
The Supreme Court has forms which are prescribed in the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986. However, the forms that appear in the Rules are of general application and can only be used as a guideline to create your own documents.
9. Do I have to pay fees when I file a document in the Supreme Court?
Sometimes you have to pay a fee when you file a document in the Supreme Court. A schedule of fees which you may have to pay is available at any of the court centres.
1. What criminal matters are heard in the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to try any serious charge. Generally it deals with accused who are to be tried by judge and jury or have elected to be tried by a judge alone. The criminal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is set out in Parts XIV, XIX and XX of the Criminal Code of Canada .
1. What family matters does the Supreme Court hear?
The Supreme Court hears family matters that involve divorce, custody, access, child and spousal support and division of matrimonial property. It can also hear some cases involving child protection matters. The Supreme Court obtains its jurisdiction from the Divorce Act which is a federal law and various pieces of provincial law, including the Family Law Act, the Children's Law Act, and the Children and Youth Care and Protection Act.
2. Are family matters heard in all Supreme Court centres?
Family matters are heard in all court centres except in St. John's Trial Division (General). Family matters arising in the St. John's metropolitan area and along the east coast as far north as Terra Nova Park (including the Bonavista Peninsula) are heard in the Supreme Court Trial Division (Family) at 21 King's Bridge Road in St. John's.
3. Does the Supreme Court Trial Division (Family) sit outside St. John's?
The Supreme Court judge from Grand Bank also hears matters for the Family Divisoin. He holds circuit court in Clarenville one week a month, and on at least one other day in the month, he holds court in Clarenville by videoconference from Grand Bank. Family matters from the Bonavista Peninsula, west to Terra Nova National Park, and east to Whitbourne are heard during those sessions. There is also a Family Division in Corner Brook.
4. Does the Provincial Court hear family matters?
The Provincial Court cannot hear divorces or disputes over division of matrimonial property, nor can it hear family matters originating in the St. John's metropolitan area, which are dealt with in the St. John’s Family Division. However, family matters originating outside the St. John's metropolitan area (including the Bonavista Peninsula, west to Terra Nova National Park, and east to Whitbourne) can be dealt with in the Provincial Court.
1. How do I appeal a Provincial Court summary conviction disposition or traffic ticket?
You may appeal a summary conviction judgment or traffic ticket by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Registry of the Supreme Court in the court centre closest to the Provincial Court in which the matter was heard. You have 30 days from the date the matter is disposed of in the Provincial Court to file the Notice of Appeal. Appeals of summary conviction dispositions must be brought in accordance with the Summary Conviction Criminal Appeal Rules.
2. How do I appeal a small claims decision granted in Provincial Court?
You appeal a small claims court decision by filing a Notice of Appeal with the Registry of the Supreme Court in the court centre closest to the Provincial Court in which the matter was heard. You have 30 days from the date of the decision in which to file the Notice of Appeal. The Supreme Court civil appeal rules apply to small claims appeals.
3. If the time to file a Notice of Appeal has expired, is there anything I can do?
Yes. You may apply to the Supreme Court for leave to extend the time for filing a Notice of Appeal. It is a good idea to draft your Notice of Appeal before you come to Court on the application. You can get the application form from any Supreme Court registry and you will have to pay a fee when you file your application.
4. May I appeal a Supreme Court decision?
Yes. You may appeal decisions made in the Trial Division, to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is located on Duckworth Street in St. John's and deals with appeals from all of the Trial Division court centres in the province. Appeals in criminal matters are brought under the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador - Court of Appeal Criminal Appeal Rules (2002) and appeals in civil matters are brought under Rule 57 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986.
1. Is videoconferencing available in the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court has videoconferencing facilities in St. John's, Clarenville and Grand Bank. Supreme Court matters are regularly conducted between these centres using these facilities. In addition, the Provincial Count has videoconferencing facilities at its court centres in St. John's, Corner Brook, Stephenville and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The Provincial and Supreme Courts share their facilities so that videoconferencing is available almost anywhere in the province.
1. What is a grant of Probate?
Probate and Administration are dealt with in Rule 56 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986. A grant of Probate is the document issued by the Supreme Court certifying that the will was accepted by the court as the last will of the deceased and has been registered in the Court. The Court appoints an executor to take control of the deceased's property when it issues a grant of Probate. The grant of Probate applies to all property owned by the deceased at the time of death. This includes land, money, and anything else owned by the deceased, located anywhere in the province. The executor takes his authority to deal with the estate from the will. The grant of Probate is evidence of the executor's authority.
2. What are letters of Administration?
Letters of Administration are issued when a person dies without a will. The Court appoints an administrator to take control of the deceased's property and distribute it according to law. The Court also issues Letters of Administration, C.T.A. and Letters of Administration, D.B.N., but they relate to different circumstances than simply dying without a will.
3. How can I find out if a person's will has been probated or estate administered?
You will be charged a fee for each name required but you can search at the Probate Registry of the Supreme Court. You will have to provide the deceased person's full name, address and an approximate date of death.
4. Can an executor live outside Newfoundland and Labrador?
Yes, the executor is chosen by the deceased. That gives the executor authority to act regardless of the executor's place of residence.
5. Am I required by law to probated a Will?
No. You are not required by law to probate a will; however, if executors wish to dispose of any estate assets, they need Letters of Probate to prove that they have the right.
6. How long do I have to probate a will or administer the estate after a person dies?
There is no time limit: A will can be probated or the estate administered any time after the person dies.
7. Are wills registered before a person dies?
No, wills are only registered when they are submitted to the Court for probate and that can only happen after the person dies.
8. Does a will become public when it is probated?
The original will must be filed at the Probate Registry when a grant of Probate is sought. It is available to the public for viewing and copying when it has been registered. The probated will becomes a permanent public record.
9. What are Letters Administration, C.T.A.?
C.T.A. is the abbreviation of the Latin word "cum testamento annexo", which means "with the will annexed". The Court issues a grant of Administration with Will Annexed when the will does not name an executor or the executor name cannot or will not act. In these cases, the will must be proved in the same way as if a grant of Probate had been applied for but the administrator's authority is more limited than an executor's.
10. What are Letters Administration, D.B.N.?
D.B.N. is the abbreviation of the Latin words "de bonis non", which refers to "goods not administered". The Court issues Letters of Administration, D.B.N. when an administrator of an estate dies without having completed the administration. It also issues Letters of Administration, D.B.N. when an executor appointed in a grant of Probate for another estate dies without a will. It should be noted that the Court can also issue Letters of Administration, C.T.A., D.B.N.
11. Can an Administrator live outside Newfoundland and Labrador?
No. The Court (not the deceased person) gives authority to administer an estate. The court's authority only extends to people living within the province so an administrator has to live in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Letters of Administration will only be issued if the administrator files an administration bond with the Court, unless a judge has dipensed with the bond.
12. Why is a bond required when a person dies without a will?
A bond is posted with the court to protect all persons, including creditors, who have an interest in the estate against losses resulting from the administration of the estate.
13. Do I need a lawyer to probate a will or administer an estate?
No. You don't need a lawyer to probate a will or administer an estate. However, circumstances may arise which could require you to seek legal counsel.
14. Will I have to go to Court if I apply to probate a will or administer an estate?
Not necessarily. The judge who hears your application may have questions for you and may instruct you to appear in court to answer those questions, but attendance in court is not usually required.
15. How much does it cost to probate a will or administer an estate?
The cost of administering an estate is based on the value of the estate. The Probate Registry will calculate the fees for you when you provide an inventory and valuation of the estate.
1. What are Letters of Guardianship?
The Supreme Court issues Letters of Guardianship when it appoints a person to make decisions for those who, for a variety of reasons, need help to make decisions about their personal or financial affairs. They may be under the age of majority (19 years old in this province) or suffer from head injuries, mental illness or disability, stroke, a degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer's, or simply have diminished capacity because of advanced age. The guardianship of minors is dealt with under Rule 56.24 of the Rules of the Supreme Court, 1986. The guardianship of adults is dealt with under the Mentally Disabled Persons' Estates Act.