Nova Scotia courts to launch new, improved website

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (April 27, 2023, 2:23 PM EDT) -- Nova Scotia’s courts are launching a new, more accessible website.

The new public website is expected to go live the morning of May 1, replacing the current one, which is now almost a decade old. This “refresh,” states a news release, “modernizes the look and feel of the site by streamlining content and layout, thus improving navigation and accessibility for all users.”

Visitors will have more direct access to court rules, decisions, dockets, news, forms and contact information, as well as webcasts of proceedings and the courts’ Twitter feed. It will also have better digital security and will be “adaptive for viewing on many types of devices, including smartphones and tablets.”

The executive office of Nova Scotia’s judiciary began planning for this in 2018. It surveyed lawyers, the public and the media on their experience using the current website. This consultation continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which further informed officials on what was needed for the new design.

According to information from a courts spokesperson, there were more than 120 respondents to the survey — around half being lawyers and law students. On the whole, concerns were expressed when it came to navigating the site.

Chief Justice Michael Woods

Chief Justice Michael Woods

In a recent interview with Law360 Canada, Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael Wood said part of the refresh is about maintaining transparency.

“Overall, the purpose of the website is to provide people information that will help them in whatever their business is with the courts, but also to provide helpful information about what the courts are doing. … And that became even more important with [the pandemic] because people at that time couldn’t just show up at the front door of the law courts [and] go and talk to a person in court administration. … It had to be something they could figure out from the website.”

The hope is the refresh will make visitors — the general public, in particular — more comfortable in dealing with the courts, he said.

“It’s so important that we continue to make it more accessible, and courts haven’t always done a particularly good job with that: explaining who we are; what we’re doing; trying to take [away] a little bit of the mystery — and perhaps the intimidation — that people feel.”

Chief Justice Wood referred to the soon-to-be-mothballed current site as “not user-friendly” — a “clunky” online environment in which users may need to click through “multiple layers” to find what is being sought.

An example, he said, is the search for civil procedure rules.

“With the old site, you have to go through two or three layers before you could get to the thing you were looking for. Here, right on the front page, there’s a tab that says ‘Rules.’ You click on it, and it takes you to a page, and you pick whether you want civil procedure rules or the provincial court rules. Whatever it is, the information is right there.”

Like Chief Justice Wood, Nova Scotia Provincial Court Chief Judge Pamela Williams touched on lessons learned from the pandemic.  

“The last few years have shone a light on the need to modernize the Courts in this country, including how we engage and communicate with the public,” she states in the news release. “This new website is a big step forward on both accounts, and will build on the momentum underway to digitally transform the Nova Scotia Courts.”

Aptitude Digital, the developer of the new site, will be responsible for maintenance and support.  

According to Nova Scotia Judiciary communications director Jennifer Stairs, the building of the new website cost around $40,000, paid for by Nova Scotia Justice. She said it will be a “living project,” and that feedback can be sent to

“Simple changes to content on the website can be made the same day we receive the feedback,” said Stairs. “More significant changes to the functionality of the website would take more time and co-ordination with the web developer.”

Details on how users can prepare for the new website can be found in the news release.   

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