June 29, 2020

Keeping Up With the Law

June 22, 2020

Assets as a Test for Security for Costs

June 19, 2020

What is This Case About?

June 11, 2020

Cross-Examining Child Witnesses

May 20 , 2020

Formal Offers

May 13 , 2020

Vexatious or Self-Represented Litigants

January 7, 2020

G.S.T. and Costs

December 20 , 2019

Electronically Navigating the

October 7 , 2019

Questioning is a Bad Word

July 29 , 2019

Dismissal for Delay

May 7 , 2019

Rule 4.31 Fallacies

March 18 , 2019

More Dangers in Oral Fee Agreements

February 11 , 2019

Weir-Jones Decisions

January 9 , 2019

Discouraging Settlements

November 30, 2018

European Court Helps You Twice?

November 23 , 2018

Courts Overruling Tribunals

November 16 , 2018

New Evidence on Appeal

October 30 , 2018

Schedule C's Role

July 17 , 2018

Loopholes in Enforcing Settlements

May 7 , 2018

Enforcement of Procedure Rules

April 16, 2018

Limping Lawsuits are Often

April 3 , 2018

Court of Appeal Tips for
Summary Decisions

March 19, 2018

Serious Dangers in Chambers

February 13 , 2018

Court Backlog

December 18 , 2017

Lowering the Status of Courts

September 15 , 2017

Access to Court Decisions

July 4 , 2017

Strictissimi Juris

June 14 , 2017

Why Don't Your Clients Settle?

June 5 , 2017

Gap in Rules About Parties

June 5, 2017

Personal Costs Against

April 26, 2017

Clogged Courts

April 11, 2017

Dismissal for Want of

January 6, 2017

Incomplete Disclosure

December 15, 2016


November 23, 2016

Is Contract Interpretation Law?



Côté’s Commentaries

© J.E. Côté 2016-2020


You need to keep up with developments in the law. You do not always have to become fully familiar with some legal topic or new development. You need to know that it exists, and what sort of things it might affect. And recognize what fact situations might trigger it.

Why is keeping up with recent case law important? For 7 reasons:

  1. Now courts are more venturesome and unpredictable; some rulings are counterintuitive.
  2. New decisions remind you of law you half forgot.
  3. When reading a new case, ask yourself how the fight arose: did some lawyer give careless advice? Or was some lawyer caught by an argument or development unexpected and hard to foresee?
  4. You learn what sort of people are litigating these days, and about what. For example, are employers still suing former employees for stealing clients or secrets?
  5. You learn what sort of things are hard to prove, and what evidence is or is not strong enough to win. Solicitors need to know that.
  6. You learn more signs of a crank or totally unreasonable litigant or client.
  7. You see disputes and rulings which you or your opponents might adapt or apply by analogy, though on the surface they do not seem to apply to you or your clients. You may confine your practice to one or two fields, but most judges do not: they hear every type of case.

Headnotes for court decisions help. They quickly tell you which cases are likely totally irrelevant to you. And they reveal a useful point buried amidst irrelevant topics. But for most courts, you cannot get headnotes quickly, or free. Hard-copy law reports with headnotes are now harder to access, more expensive, and offer only a small fraction of decisions. Does your law firm subscribe to a commercial website of court decisions with headnotes, which site is fairly prompt and complete? Reading it might be a good compromise.

Occasionally, borrow a new edition of a textbook, look at the table of contents, and spend a few minutes on a chapter or two which display many recent citations.

Do not let your eyes get bigger than your tummy. Too ambitious a reading goal will make you fall behind, get discouraged, dislike such reading, and end up not reading any law at all. Pare down your selection criteria to what is manageable. Then stick to it. Devise a personal procedure which ensures that you keep up. Having to look through a whole month's decisions from your province's superior courts is likely too discouraging.

– Hon. J.E. Côté


The Commentaries are intended to call the attention of lawyers to promising or threatening developments in the law, in civil procedure, in developing their skills, or simply to describe something curious, funny or intriguing.

Justice Côté recently retired from the Court of Appeal of Alberta and currently acts as an arbitrator, mediator, or referee under Rules 6.44 and 6.45 of the Alberta Rules of Court.

He may be contacted through Juriliber at email: or phone 780-424-5345.