Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Rules of Court Definition:

Rules of procedure and conduct during the sitting of a court of law uniformly applicable to litigants and their lawyers, and governing the hearings of claims and motions, and defences or responses thereto.

Related Terms: Regulation, Trial, Cursus Curiae Est Lex Curiae

Also known as court rules.

As Justice Funduk wrote in Wurtz:

"The Rules of Court are rules governing the practice and procedure in the court."

Each court generally publishes a set of rules of court which govern business before it on procedural matters - not substantive law. In many instances, though this is a matter of some controversy, a court (the judiciary) is free to establish its own rules of court. In some jurisdictions, this is a matter left to elected legislatures, especially as the careful crafting by elected officials of court rules can streamline justice without undue deference to aged or conservative judges who need not respond efficiently to the public interest.

In Marco, Justice Greene noted:

"The Rules of Court ... set out procedural pathways or guidelines for the conduct of litigation. The court, in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction to control its own process and under the Rules themselves, may modify the strictures of particular procedural requirements to meet the exigencies of a specific case provided always, of course, any such modification can be done without trenching on the rights of other parties to a fair and proper hearing."

As early as 1818, Justice Eldon noted that the rules ought to be flexible:

"There is no general rule with respect to the practice of this Court that will not yield to the demands of justice."

In Bank of Hamilton (1888), Justice Armour wrote:

"Having regard to modern ideas and modern legislation in matters of practice and procedure, such rules must now be applied only in the interest of and for the advancement of justice, and not in support of ancient technicality."

In 1946, Justice O'Halloran of the British Columbia Court of Appeal, in Fenchurch, wrote:

"Rules of Court are the servants and not the masters of the Court, whose faculty it is to interpret those Rules in the manner most likely to do justice between the parties."

In Coulthard (1952), Justice Proctor of the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal wrote:

"Rules of Court are made for the purpose of allowing the business of the courts to be carried on in an orderly manner."

One 2010 publication by a Canadian court described Rules of Court as follows:

"The Rules of Court govern the conduct of litigation in the Supreme Court. They are a road map for steering your case through trial and beyond. The Rules are very important because they provide guidelines for each step in the litigation process and also set time limits for when certain steps must be completed."1


  • Bank of Hamilton v. Baine, 12 P.R. 439 (1888)
  • Coulthard v Coulthard, 5 W.W.R. (N.S.) 662 and 1952 CarswellSask 20
  • Fenchurch Export Corp. v. Sitka Spruce Lumber Co., [1947] 1 W.W.R. 182, 63 B.C.R. 362, [1947] 2 D.L.R. 139
  • Marco Ltd. v. Newfoundland Processing Ltd., 130 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 308 (1995)
  • Morrissey v. Morrissey, 2000 NFCA 67, 196 D.L.R. (4th) 94
  • NOTE 1: Overview of the Civil Litigation Process,  Justice Education Society of British Columbia, 2010.
  • Romley v Ballinger 97 P. 3d 101 (Arizona, 2004)
  • Wales (Princess) v. Liverpool (Earl), 1 Swans 114, at 125, 36 ER 320 (1818)
  • Wurtz v Nobis, 15 Alta. L.R. (2d) 1

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