Can Things said in Open Court Be Repeated Outside of Court?
Limits on privacy expectations for Family Court records were considered by the BC Court of Appeal in Chellappa v Kumar. (2016 BCCA 2) In that case, a child protection social worker employed by the British Columbia government testified for Ms. Chellappa. The trial judge commented critically about the social worker’s conduct in relation to the family law case – and the social worker was fired. His union grieved his dismissal.
In preparing for the grievance arbitration, a government representative asked Mr. Kumar to provide documents from the family law file. He provided several, including a transcript of the social worker's testimony at trial. Ms. Chellappa applied to court seeking to prevent the use of these documents.
The decision of the court was that Ms. Chellappa "enjoys no overriding, right of privacy in regard to material filed in her family law case.” The Court further stated that it is possible for a Supreme Court judge to limit access to a family law file but "such an order is contrary to the open court principle and is an exception to the general rule."
Occasionally, you may hear about people in the public eye who settle family law cases - even on less than ideal terms – rather than go to Court, in order to avoid public disclosure. They do so because of the open court principle. They could also submit the matter to arbitration. Proceedings in an arbitration do generally enjoy the protection of privacy. The only catch is that arbitration will only occur if both parties agree to go that route.
Article written by Centennial Law Corp. (Douglas E. Dent)