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Ottawa Courthouses Setup
The Nation's Capital has a veritable cornucopia of courts, without even counting all the federal tribunals, because of subject specialization of both federally and provincially run judicial bodies at the trial and appeal level.
1. Ottawa Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) & Ontario Court of Justice
You'll find Superior civil, criminal, family and small claims court, plus provincial criminal court all in one courthouse location on Elgin Street.
The best parking is under the adjacent City Hall. Enter off either Elgin Street or Laurier Avenue. Street parking is limited, disappears during rush hours, and likely won't last you long enough if you're stuck in court. Only one public entrance to the courthouse is now available, located off Elgin Street. Be prepared for security screening.
The building sits around a triangular enclosed atrium soaring to the top of its six stories. There are lots of courtrooms and its easy to get lost. Ask at the information desk to the right of the elevators as you enter the courthouse to find out which courtroom your case will be heard in.
Features the darkest courtrooms in Canada. So low is the mood lighting, you'll want to take a nap. While no windows is always a bad thing, you'd think a lack of glaring fluorescent lights beating down on your brain would be a good thing. But here inside the courtrooms it's as if someone forgot to switch on the main lights, and you're just stuck with the after hours mood lighting. Don't let the lighting lull you into a sense of complacency. Hallways have normal lighting and lots of good seating.
2. Ottawa Bankruptcy Court (SCJ)
Located on an upper floor of the Elgin St. Ottawa Courthouse, it is one of only four bankruptcy court locations in Ontario. While forming an integral part of the Superior Court of Justice, it has its own clerk counter for court filings and cases are usually presided over by a Master. It hears disputes under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act.
3. Ottawa Divisional Court (SCJ)
Located in the Ottawa Courthouse, and an integral part of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, it shares the clerks of the civil counter on the ground floor. As a regional centre you'll come here for any three judge Divisional Court sitting in Eastern Ontario, whereas one judge sittings may happen at your local Superior Court of Justice.
The Divisional Court hears appeals appeals of interlocutory (temporary) family court orders, appeals of small claims judgments, judicial reviews of provincial board and tribunal decisions, and some other administrative law matters.
4. Tax Court of Canada
Located at 200 Kent Street, the tax court is a Superior Court hearing matters related to income tax, goods and services tax, and employment insurance.
5. Federal Court of Canada & Federal Court of Appeal
Lawsuits and judicial reviews involving the Government of Canada, specialized cases involving admiralty, aeronautics or intellectual property, appeals and judicial reviews of Federal Tribunals and the Tax Court all come to the Federal Court of Federal Court of Appeal.
6. Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada is the last level of civil and criminal appeal in Canada. You might have already been able to take a run at two levels of appeal courts before you get here.
There are very few appeals "as of right" to the Supreme Court of Canada. Instead, you've got to ask for leave to appeal, and generally show that you've got an issue of national importance, not just an issue that's important to you personally. Only about 1 in 10 cases that ask for leave to appeal receive it.
The imposing building is located just west of Parliament Hill. Great Art Deco architecture and Walter Symour Allward (designer of the Vimy Memorial) statues of Justitia and Veritas flanking you as you enter. Since very few cases ever make it here, you're more likely to come here as a spectator (it can be a good show if all nine judges are on the bench at the same time) than as a litigant.
Ottawa Superior Court of Justice & Ontario Court of Justice
161 Elgin St, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2K1
Tax Court of Canada
200 Kent St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5N9
Federal Court of Canada & Federal Court of Appeal
90 Sparks Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H9
Supreme Court of Canada
301 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0J1