Presentation - Post-COVID Court Communication. Atkinson v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
In Atkinson v. College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (Div Ct, 2020) the Divisional Court engaged in an interesting (what can fairly be described as an 'exchange') with a presenting party. It may be because of the increased number of parties presenting without a lawyer and the COVID crisis, but I doubt that this would have made it past the court clerks before the court allowed direct email access. The expression 'can of worms' comes to mind, with all the huge and important issues of access to the courts that this entails:
 Ms Atkinson sent an email to the court requesting urgent scheduling of a motion to compel the College of Physicians and Surgeons to investigate a complaint she made against a physician in December 2019.
 There is no subsisting proceeding in this court between Ms Atkinson and the College.
 The court advised Ms Atkinson by email that it appears that her motion is not framed properly because there is no subsisting proceeding against the College in this court: this court has no jurisdiction to grant relief against the College on motion, in the absence of an appeal or application in which relief is properly claimed against the College. However, given that Ms Atkinson is self-represented, and given that her “motion” does provide a potential basis for an application for an order against the College, the court directed that a case management conference be scheduled in order to explore regularizing this matter and moving forward with it.
 Ms Atkinson was advised of the date and time for this case management conference on June 23, 2020. She responded that:
I asked for a different judge and a response to my complaint.  Based on the exchange of emails with Ms Atkinson, the court responded to this email as follows:
I am not available in that date anyway. You have not so much as acknowledged the complaint.
RE: ZOE ATKINSON VS COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS AND SURGEONS OF ONTARIO Ms Atkinson responded that she was not satisfied with this response. The court replied to this communication as follows:
Justice Corbett, the Administrative Judge of the Divisional Court, has instructed us to respond to your recent emails as follows.
You recently contacted this court to bring an urgent motion to compel the College of Physicians and Surgeons to provide a response to your complaint about a doctor. You were advised by the court that your concern cannot be brought as a motion, but can be brought as an application for judicial review to seek an order compelling the College to respond to your complaint. The court advised that it would treat your request in this fashion and schedule a case management conference to move this matter forward.
A case management conference has been scheduled for next Monday. You have advised that you are not available next Monday, and in any event you are of the view that Justice Corbett should not preside at the conference because you have made a complaint about him. Today you have advised that you wish to withdraw your motion.
The court appreciates that you are self-represented and may not understand how court processes work. We have tried to facilitate a process for you to move forward with the court in respect to your concern about the College. The case management teleconference will proceed next Monday as scheduled. If you decide to participate in it, then the court will explore with you and the College how best to move your concerns forward with the court. If you decide not to attend the court will endorse that the motion has been abandoned by you, on the basis of your email indicating that you no longer wish to proceed.
As a litigant pursuing proceedings in the Divisional Court, you are not entitled to select your judge or to insist that a particular judge not preside in your matters. The fact that you may have complained about a judge is not a basis for that judge to recuse himself from your matters. Justice Corbett will ordinarily be case managing any litigation brought by you in the Divisional Court in his role as Administrative Judge of the Divisional Court. Any concern you have with that may be raised by you with His Honour during the case management teleconference.
The call-in information for the case management teleconference is set out for you again at the end of this email. It will be up to you to decide whether to participate in that call so that your concern regarding the College of Physicians and Surgeons may move forward in the Divisional Court.
Your concerns have been addressed in the court's earlier email today. If you do not attend the case management teleconference on Monday then your matter will be dismissed as abandoned. Ms Atkinson did not appear at this case management conference. Her motion is dismissed as abandoned without costs.
Please do not correspond with us further on this topic. Any concerns you have may be raised with Justice Corbett at the teleconference on Monday.
 During the case management conference, Ms Block confirmed the following points, which had been communicated to the court in writing prior to the case management conference:
(a) The College takes the position that it received Ms Atkinson’s complaint on January 8, 2020;I did not receive any additional or contrary information from Ms Atkinson because she decided not to attend the case management conference.
(b) The College has conducted investigations into the complaint and has been in communication with Ms Atkinson about its investigations;
(c) On June 10, 2020, the College advised Ms Atkinson that the complaint will be forwarded to the College’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (the “ICRC”) for a screening decision;
(d) On June 23, 2020, the College advised Ms Atkinson that the complaint will be put before the ICRC at a meeting on July 23, 2020.
 During the continued suspension of ordinary court operations in the Divisional Court, all cases are being case managed by an Administrative Judge of the Divisional Court. Ms Atkinson’s conduct in this matter has not been acceptable – even making allowances for the fact that she is a self-represented litigant. It is directed that any future matters in the Divisional Court involving Ms Atkinson be subject to case management by an Administrative Judge of the Divisional Court or his or her designate. Staff should refer any such matters to an Administrative Judge when the matter is brought to the court.