Lesson 8: Supreme Court of BC

Topic 4: Judges, Masters, and Juries

The following information is taken from www.CourtsofBC.ca, a website that provides information on BCs Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal.

Judges and Juries

If the case proceeds to the Supreme Court, the accused may be able to choose if he or she is tried by a judge alone or by a judge and jury. For murder, skyjacking, and several other serious offences, a judge and twelve-person jury hears the trial in Supreme Court unless the accused and the Crown counsel agree to a trial by judge only. For example, in one case, where the two accused were charged with over 300 counts of murder, the parties agreed not to have a jury.

Judges and Masters

The Supreme Court Act passed by the Government of BC specifies that there will be 86 judges plus the Chief Judge and Associate Chief Judge. As well, there are always a number of supernumerary or half time judges. The Supreme Court judges sit in eight judicial districts, traveling around the province on circuit through the year.

The court also employs Supreme Court Masters who deal primarily with pre-trial matters in chambers. Masters are addressed as Master before their surname (Master White) outside of court and as ‘Your Honour’ in court.

There are no witnesses in chambers, as all evidence is filed by using a written document called an affidavit. This affidavit sets out the evidence and is sworn to by the person who is giving that evidence. Chambers matters are much shorter than trials and usually last a few minutes to a few hours.

If you ever have to prepare for a chambers hearing in a family law matter, go to www.CourtTips.ca to understand the process and to see what judges expect in your application.