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Filing documents in the Supreme Court of British Columbia: when are backing sheets required?

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Michael Dew is a Vancouver lawyer who practices in all areas of civil litigation (including ICBC cases) and criminal law. Click here for contact information and further details about Michael’s practice.
If you are a law student or young lawyer, you may have wondered about those sheets with the sideways writing on them that are sometimes attached to the back of documents filed in with the British Columbia Supreme Court. What are they, why are they printed sideways, and when exactly are they required? This article provides brief answers to those questions.
Backing sheets are not dealt with in the Rules of Court, B.C. Reg. 221/90.
The mysterious sideways printed documents are called “backing sheets”; because they are attached to the back of documents filed with the court.
Since backing sheets relate to the formal requirements for court documents, one would expect them to be described in the rules of court. Although this is the case in other provinces, the Rules of Court, B.C. Reg. 221/90 in British Columbia do not describe backing sheet requirements. Nor does the Supreme Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 443, the Court Rules Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 80, or regulations under them.
What information is contained on backing sheets?
The backing sheet contains the name of the party who submitted the document the backing sheet is attached to.
As explained below, backing sheets are always required when draft orders are submitted for approval. A backing sheet for a draft order would contain the style of proceeding including the registry file number, the word “ORDER” written between two horizontal lines, and then the details of the person who applied for the order. These details are generally provided in the following order:
Name of the solicitor’s law firm
Address of the solicitor’s law firm
Telephone and fax number of the solicitor’s law firm
Name of the lawyer who applied for the order
This list of details should be centered on the center of the letter sized page.
When are backing sheets required?
The registry must always know which party filed each document, and generally, the purpose of backing sheets is to indicate who filed documents.
However, for documents such as writs, statements of claim and defence, notices of motion, petitions, requisitions (e.g. requests made to the registry under Rule 64(9)) etc., the name of the party or solicitor who filed the document can simply be placed at the foot of the first (or last) page of the document. The following is an example of a sentence that could be used for this purpose:
This [description of the form being submitted] is filed by [name of solicitor] of the law firm of [name of law firm], solicitor for the [plaintiff/defendant], whose place of business and address for delivery is [solicitor’s address], [solicitor’s phone number], [solicitor’s fax number].
If the name of the party who filed the document is placed on the foot of the document in this way, it is not necessary to attach a backing sheet. So long as the name of the party submitting the document is clear one way or the other, the registry does not, subject to the exception set out below, require backing sheets.
There is one type of document which should not, on its face, indicate the name of the party or solicitor who filed the document: a draft court order. Rule 41(8) provides that draft court orders may be drawn up by the parties. The draft is then presented to the judge or master hearing the application, and if the order is approved, the draft order is signed and becomes an official court order. But, court orders should not have the name of the party who drafted the order in their footer because court orders are issued by the court, not by a party, and they must appear independent on their face. The order must appear as if it was produced and issued by the court clerk. Therefore, to communicate to the registry which party filed the draft court order, a backing sheet must be provided.
Although the draft order should not indicate who drafted it, it is standard for the order to be approved as to form by all parties. Rule 41(8) states that orders “unless the court otherwise directs, shall be approved in writing by all parties or their solicitors or counsel”. Generally orders will include a line stating “Approved as to form”, with a signature line for each counsel. See also British Columbia Supreme Court Practice Direction Re: Orders, October 17, 1990.
In summary: Backing sheets are generally not required; the name of the party can simply be provided in the footer of the cover page of the document filed. But, backing sheets must always be used when submitting draft court orders because the order should not indicate on its face the name of the party who drafted it.
What happens to approved orders?
Once draft orders are approved and become official court orders, the parties, or at least the party who applied for the order, will want a copy of the order. After the judge or master has signed the order and the court clerk has stamped it, a copy of the order will be placed in alphabetized pigeonholes in the hallway of the registry for pickup by the parties.
Why should the backing sheets be printed sideways?
Backing sheets should be printed sideways because when approved orders are placed in the pigeonholes, they are folded to a third of their size (as if they were to be placed in an envelope for mailing) and then slid long-ways into the appropriate pigeonhole. If the name of the party is printed sideways and centrally located on the sheet of letter size paper, it will make it easy for counsel to look through and find their order in the pile of orders in the pigeonhole they expect to find their order in.
What happens if backing sheets are not attached to draft court orders?
If draft orders are submitted without backing sheets, it will not be readily apparent to the registry staff who applied for the order, and so they will not know who to return the approved order to. In such cases, instead of putting the approved order into a pigeonhole where it could easily be found, the staff will place them into a bigger box that contains unlabelled orders, and possibly labelled orders that were never collected.