Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Proportionality Definition:

A policy of judicial case management that promotes the balance of court involvement on a per case basis based on the value, complexity and importance of the case.

Related Terms: Multi-tracking

The concept of proportionality in the context of rules of court or court rules, was discussed in Saunders v Williams as follows:

"We must bear in mind the question of proportionality. Under the Civil Procedure Rules, it is the duty of the court to make decisions proportionate to the issues involved. That involves a consideration of whether the amount of money at stake and the amount which a successful appellant is likely to achieve justifies the expense of remission on this issue which would involve an expensive retrial and probably expert evidence. We have to consider it from the point of view of the parties, also we have to consider the public interest, whether it is appropriate that this case should be remitted so that further court time, which of course is in much demand by litigants, should be taken, having regard to the narrowness of the possible financial outcomes in this case."

In one Canadian jurisdiction, that of British Columbia, proportionality was described as follows:

"A key principle of our vision is that the amount of process used for a case will be proportionate to the value, complexity and importance of the case. Incorporating this principle will help make our civil justice system more timely, efficient, fair and affordable....

"The concept of proportionality is based on the principle that all cases are not equal. They vary in their monetary value, complexity and importance. Cases filed in the (British Columbia) Supreme Court vary in dollar value from a few thousand dollars to multi-million-dollar claims. The complexity of cases varies from a minor motor vehicle accident, in which liability is admitted and a single party suffered a specific injury, to a lawsuit over environmental contamination, involving numerous parties and multi-faceted scientific and legal issues. The importance of cases varies from a slip-and-fall case that will have no bearing on the established body of law for such cases, to cases alleging violations of fundamental constitutional rights that could have a lasting and substantial impact on the law. Traditionally, however, rules of court procedure do not distinguish cases based upon their value, complexity or importance—all cases are treated more or less the same."1

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