Access to Court Facilities, Media Briefings and Lock-ups

Media Access to the Court

The Supreme Court of Canada building is open to the public, including members of the media, on weekdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Members of the public, including the media, are welcome to attend any hearing of an appeal except in those rare circumstances when legislation requires or a judge orders that a proceeding, or part of a proceeding, be held in private.

Upon advance request and subject to prior approval by the Court, members of the media may use the Grand Entrance Hall for interviews and filming relating to the Court's proceedings. Requests by members of the media for special use of the Grand Entrance Hall or set up outside normal hours should be made at least 24 hours in advance to the Executive Legal Officer.

Attendance at Hearings of Appeals

The Court hears appeals for two weeks each month from October through June. See the schedule for hearings for the current session.

A limited number of seats are reserved in the Courtroom for members of the media. Simultaneous translation in both official languages is available.

Audio recorders may be used in the Courtroom, but cameras are not permitted. The use of laptops and handheld devices such as Blackberries and cell phones is permitted, as long as the sound is turned off. The Court provides power outlets at the media seats as well as free wireless internet access. Members of the media may also watch the appeal from the Court's Press Room, which is equipped with a closed circuit television feed of the appeal (in both official languages) as it is being argued.

Press Room

The Court has a fully equipped Press Room featuring live, closed circuit television coverage of hearings, audio feeds in both official languages and facilities for using laptop computers. Reference copies of the factums (memoranda of argument) of the parties and interveners for the case(s) being heard that day are made available in the Press Room. In order to connect to the audio feed, a headset with a standard jack is required. The Court does not supply headsets.

The Press Room is located on the first floor adjacent to the Courtroom.

Release of Decisions of the Court

The decision of the Court is sometimes rendered at the conclusion of the hearing, but more often, judgment is reserved to enable the judges to write considered reasons. Decisions of the Court need not be unanimous; a majority may decide, with dissenting reasons given by the minority. Each judge may write reasons in any case if he or she chooses to do so.

When a judgment is delivered in a case reserved for decision, the parties are given notice and the formal judgment is deposited with the Registrar together with all the written opinions and a headnote (short summary of the case and the holdings of the judge(s) writing) in both official languages. Copies of the reasons for judgment may then be obtained at the Court Records Office. Reasons for judgment, in both official languages, are published in the Supreme Court Reports which are available for reference in the Court's Library, located on the third floor of the Supreme Court of Canada building.

Normally, decisions of the Court are released at 9:45 a.m. (Eastern Time). Advance notice of the release of decisions - in both appeals and in applications for leave to appeal - is given by news release. News releases announcing judgments include a direct link to the reasons for judgment. You may subscribe to Lexum's mailing list to receive notice of the release of judgments in appeals and in applications for leave to appeal. On a regular basis, if at least one document has been posted, you will receive an email message with a list of links to our documents. In addition, our judgments are also available on our Twitter accounts, in English (@SCC_eng) or in French (@CSC_fra).

Reasons for judgment are also available electronically in both English and French shortly after the decision has been released. Judgments can be searched on the Lexum site.

Media Briefings

Pre-Session Briefings

The Executive Legal Officer holds a pre-session briefing in the Court's Press Room at the beginning of each new session to give an overview of the issues in the cases to be heard. Notice of the pre-hearing briefing is given to the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery (CPPG), which in turn, provides notice to its members. Any member of the media who is not a member of the CPPG, may ask to have his or her name added to a mailing list for direct notice by informing the Executive Legal Officer.

Decisions on an Appeal

Whenever the Court issues reasons for decision on an appeal, a media briefing is held to assist members of the media to understand the reasons for decision. No briefing is held if a decision is rendered, without reasons, from the bench. Briefings are held in the Court's Press Room on the morning the decision is released. Copies of the reasons for judgment are distributed at the briefing. Copies of the factums (memoranda of argument) of the parties and interveners are available for reference in the Press Room.

Advance notice of media briefings is sent to the CPPG which informs its members. Media briefings are for information only and are not for attribution. Any member of the media who is not a member of the CPPG, may ask to have his or her name added to a mailing list for direct notice by informing the Executive Legal Officer.

Leave to Appeal Applications

No media briefing is held for decisions on applications for leave to appeal. Decisions on applications for leave to appeal are made public through news releases.

Lock-ups

The Court may, at its discretion, hold lock-ups for media and counsel immediately prior to the release of its judgments. The purpose of lock-ups is to facilitate accurate and informed reporting of the Court’s judgments. For further information, see the Court’s Judgment Lock-up Procedure and the related Notice to the Profession.