Court Records

How the Court Records are Organized:

Records of court proceedings are created and maintained in the judicial centre in which the court case is heard. Each court jurisdiction maintains its own series of files. These are kept in numerical sequence by the year in which court proceedings began. Reference to a docket book is therefore necessary in order to retrieve the file for a particular court action. The docket book names the plaintiff and the defendant, states the type of action, lists the documents filed and the date they were filed, and provides the file number. Each book is indexed alphabetically.

For a summary list of the types of court records at the Saskatchewan Archives, click here.

The type of documents found in court records may vary greatly. Normally records include a statement of claim or complaint, a copy of the writ of summons, a statement of defense, and the judgment of the case. There may also be exhibits, affidavits, declarations, depositions, copies of subpoenas, examinations for discovery, information, notes of justices of the peace, and writs of execution. Usually a transcript of proceedings is made only in cases appealed to a higher court.

While most court records are accessible to the general public, certain records, such as those relating to adoption proceedings and court actions involving young offenders, are not. Because of the arrangement and storage of court records, inquiries must be specific. Ideally, the name of the plaintiff or the defendant, the place of the trial, and the year of the trial should be known before you approach the judicial centre or the Saskatchewan Archives for information.

What information is needed?

  1. Names of the parties
    Who were the parties to the case? If it is a criminal case one of the parties is always "the King", "the Queen", "Rex", "Regina", or simply "R." The accused person(s) is the other party.

    In some cases Archives staff may conduct searches by the name of the defendant using a database created from the criminal case docket books at the Saskatchewan Archives. The database is not comprehensive.

    If it is a civil case, the case is named according to the names of the plaintiff(s), who are the person(s) suing, and the defendant(s), who are the person(s) being sued.
     
  2. Date
    Since the records are arranged chronologically, the year or approximate year is needed to narrow the search.
     
  3. Court
    In which court was the case heard? Police Magistrate's Court? District Court? King's Bench? Was the case sent to the Court of Appeal? The type of case may indicate in which court the case was heard.
     
  4. Judicial District
    In which judicial district or courthouse was the case heard?  Criminal matters usually are heard in the judicial district where the crime took place. Civil matters may be heard where the plaintiff or defendant reside or where the property in dispute is located.

It is important to provide as much of the above information as possible so that Archives staff can locate the record or direct you to where the records may be located. Reference staff can assist you in determining in which judicial district and which court a case may have been heard. Please Note: There may be some time delays in accessing court records since many are still unprocessed.

Court System in Saskatchewan – A Historic Overview

The administration of justice in the area now called Saskatchewan dates from the period prior to the transfer of Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada in 1870. In these early years, the Hudson's Bay Company had the responsibility of bringing offenders before its General Court in the Red River settlement.

After 1870 and the transfer of Rupert's Land to Canada, federal statutes governed the area outside of Manitoba until the government of the North West Territories was created. In 1873, the court system was established with stipendiary magistrates having jurisdiction over less serious offences. A Manitoba Queen's Bench Judge or two stipendiary magistrates sitting together had jurisdiction over more serious offences. Where the penalty was death or imprisonment in a penitentiary, a case could be sent to the Manitoba Queen's Bench for trial. Over the course of the next few years, the system underwent some minor changes in jurisdiction and judicial districts, but the next significant change was not until 1886 with the creation of the Supreme Court of the North West Territories was created.

The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta were created in 1905 but the territorial court system remained in place until 1907. The 1907 provincial court system included:

  • The Supreme Court of Saskatchewan which sat as the Supreme Court En Banc when serving as the Appeal Court for the province.
  • The District Court which was a court of limited jurisdiction; that is, it could only hear those cases that were prescribed under statute to hear. It also functioned as the appeal court for sentences imposed by justices of the peace and police magistrates.
  • The Surrogate Court was also formed in 1907. This was the court of probate governing inheritance, guardianship, etc.

At the formation of the Saskatchewan Court system in 1907, there were eight judicial districts.

In 1918, the court system underwent another transformation when the Supreme Court was divided into two courts:

  • The Court of the King's Bench (KB). (In 1952, when Queen Elizabeth II became the British monarch, this court became the Court of the Queen's Bench (QB).)
  • The Court of Appeal, as the appellate court which had the same jurisdiction as the Supreme Court of the North West Territories En Banc, that is, to hear the appeal of decisions tendered in the lower courts.

By 1958, the number of judicial districts had increased to 21. In that year judicial districts were dissolved and, in their place was established one judicial district, comprising the whole province, with 21 judicial centres. The Surrogate Court continued to function, as did the District Court. The District Court was rolled into the Court of the Queen's Bench in 1981.

In recent years, the judicial system in Saskatchewan has been significantly reorganized. At present, there are three levels of court: the Provincial Court; the Court of Queen's Bench; and the Court of Appeal. There are 13 permanent judicial centres within the province. Addresses for the judicial centres may be found at www.sasklawcourts.ca.

Court sessions below the level of the Court of Appeal may be held in any judicial centre in the province. Provincial legislation determines which court has jurisdiction to hear a case. Generally speaking, criminal offences and claims involving large amounts of money are tried in the Court of Queen's Bench. Other cases involving civil law are tried in lower court. The Court of Queen's Bench, the Court of Appeal, or the Supreme Court of Canada may hear appeals.

The Court of the King's/Queen's Bench is a court of original jurisdiction. That is, it can hear anything unless a statute specifically excludes it. Some cases, for example divorces and treason, are heard exclusively in the KB/QB. Civil cases involving larger amounts of money (the amount has changed over the years) are also heard in KB/QB.

Under the District and KB/QB courts was the Magistrate's Court, now known as the Provincial Court.  Over time, this court has been presided over by justices of the peace, police magistrates, and provincial magistrates; today, it is presided over by provincial court judges. The Saskatchewan Archives does not have records from this court.