Casual Legal: Deadline for filing for judicial review

By Bethany Schatz
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

Municipalities are delegated their authority from the provincial legislature and must act within the constraints of their legislative authority. As such, their decisions are subject to judicial scrutiny and oversight.

The Alberta Rules of Court dictate how judicial review applications must be brought and the timing to bring those applications. Recently, it has been confirmed by the Alberta Court of King’s Bench that the six-month time period for judicial review applications will be strictly construed.

Rule 3.15 states that an originating application for judicial review to set aside a decision or act of an administrative body must be filed and served within six months after the date of the decision or act. The originating application must be served on the administrative body (i.e., the municipality), the Minister of Justice, and every other person or body directly affected by the application. Importantly, the time limit for judicial review applications cannot be varied or extended by the Court under Rule 13.5.

The six-month time limitation to file for judicial review is much different than the normal limitation periods that apply to general litigation matters, like claims of negligence for example. Under the Limitations Act, a claim must be brought two years after the claimant knew or ought to have known about the claim, or 10 years after the claim arose, whichever period expires first.

As per Rule 3.15, judicial review applications, on the other hand, must be brought within six months. This is a much tighter deadline and serves to limit the liability for administrative decisions and provide certainty moving forward.

A recent case of the Albert Court of King’s Bench, Tartal v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), confirmed that the six-month limitation period in Rule 3.15 is mandatory and will be strictly construed. It is a true limitation period and substantive in nature. In other words, it is not merely a procedural irregularity that can be curable by Courts under Rule 1.5. Courts also cannot extend or vary the time limitation under Rule 13.5. An originating application for judicial review must be both filed and served within the six-month deadline. Both requirements need to be met.

An important exception to the six-month time period is if a person is seeking to have a bylaw or resolution of a municipality declared invalid on procedural grounds. In this case, the time period may be even shorter. Section 537 of the Municipal Government Act requires that these applications be made within 60 days after the bylaw or resolution was passed.

If a municipality is served a statement of claim, it is important to consider whether part of the claim should have, instead, been brought by way of a judicial review. If so, then the six-month time period under Rule 3.15 will usually apply, or if it is seeking to have a bylaw or resolution declared invalid on procedural grounds, the 60 days under section 537 may apply. Both of these time periods operate to limit a municipality’s liability and provide certainty to operations moving forward.

If your municipality has been served with a statement of claim or originating application for judicial review, it is important to seek legal counsel in a timely manner. A limitation defense may be available.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.