The Courts of Nova Scotia

The Courts of Nova Scotia

The Court of Appeal is the highest court in the province of Nova Scotia.

It hears appeals in both civil and criminal matters from the Supreme Court and, in criminal matters, from the Provincial Court.
It also hears appeals from the Family Court and the Youth Justice Court.
And it hears appeals of decisions of tribunals such as the Workers' Compensation Board, the Utilities Review Board, and the Human Rights Commission. The Supreme Court (including the Family Division) is the highest trial court in the province of Nova Scotia.

It has broad authority to try a wide range of civil matters and serious criminal matters.
It has exclusive authority to hold jury trials, and to hears appeals (on summary convictions) from certain criminal trials and from tribunals, to try murder cases (except for Young Offenders), and to grant divorce and divide matrimonial property. The Supreme Court Family Division sits only in the Halifax Regional Municipality and in Cape Breton.

It deals with all family matters including divorce and the division of matrimonial property.
Outside of Halifax and Cape Breton, divorce and the division of matrimonial property are heard in Supreme Court.
All other family matters are heard in the Family Court. The Provincial Court deals with almost all indictable offences under the Criminal Code (except an adult accused of murder).

The Court also has exclusive jurisdiction over all summary offence charges under provincial and federal statutes and regulations.
It is also responsible for the Youth Justice Court as well as the Mental Health Court, the Domestic Violence Court Pilot Program in Sydney, and the Court-monitored Drug Treatment Pilot Program in King's County. The Family Court, in areas of the Province outside Cape Breton and the Halifax Regional Municipality, hears family matters such as maintenance and custody/access (but not divorce or division of matrimonial property).

In these same areas, divorce and the division of matrimonial property are dealt with by the Supreme Court.
In Cape Breton and the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Supreme Court Family Division hears all family matters. The Small Claims Court provides a quick, cost-effective method for deciding claims of up to $25,000 (excluding interest and costs).

You can make a claim for a payment of money and/or the return of goods.
This court is less formal than others.
It is not necessary for the person making the claim (claimant) and the person whom the claim is against (defendant) to hire lawyers.
And the case is not heard by a Judge but by an adjudicator (a lawyer). The Bankruptcy Court allows those who cannot pay their debts to apply to be relieved of that responsibility, or change the repayment terms, by filing an assignment in bankruptcy.

All the available property and assets are turned over to a Trustee.
They may then be distributed among the creditors in accordance with the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act or the debtor may be allowed to pay the debts over time, usually, at a reduced amount. The Probate Court protects heirs, legatees, and estate creditors. It is a forum for adjudication without monetary limits.

It can appoint executors, administrators, appraisers, and guardians in relation to all estate matters.
The Court has the authority to supervise the proper management and distribution of estate assets.
It also approves legal fees and determines the commissions and expenses for executors and administrators. The Youth Justice Court is a specialized Court under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia.

Young people accused of criminal offences, who are 12 to 17 years of age appear in this Court and are dealt with under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA).
The provisions of the YCJA are different from those under which other Courts operate when they deal with accused adults. The Mental Health Court hears cases which have been recommended by a team of justice and mental health professionals.

It is for adults with a recognized mental disorder who have been charged with a criminal offence.
Prospective participants must also have a substantial connection to the Halifax Regional Municipality, among other qualifying criteria.
Participation in the Mental Health Court is voluntary. The Drug Treatment Court is a pilot program currently operating in King's County.

It is designed to ensure offenders take responsibility for their actions and agree to, and follow through on, treatment for their addiction.
People who have been charged with an offence can be referred to the program by their lawyer, the Crown attorney, police officers, probation officers, or community treatment partners. They can also refer themselves. The Domestic Violence Court is a pilot program currently available only at the courthouse in Sydney.

The Court sits once a week.
People who live anywhere in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are eligible to participate.
However, in order to be eligible, individuals must plead guilty to an offence and then attend designated programming before being sentenced.

Broadening Our Perspectives

Judges from all the Nova Scotia Courts recently took part in an engagement session at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook, N.S. Participants spent two days listening and learning from legal experts and community leaders about the unique challenges facing African Nova Scotians, particularly in the context of the justice system.


  • Aug. 31 - John Bodurtha, a Halifax lawyer specializing in tax law, has been appointed a Judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, effective immediately. MORE >>
  • Aug. 28 - A robing ceremony for Judge Chris Manning of the Provincial & Family Courts will be held Sept. 7 in Kentville. MORE >>
  • Aug. 27 - The Hon. Pamela Williams has been appointed a second term as Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts. MORE >>
  • Aug. 24 - The Free Legal Clinic in Halifax is looking for volunteers to help with the upcoming fall/winter session. MORE >>
  • Aug. 20 - The updated consolidated Civil Procedure Rules, including the new Practice Memorandum 13, are now available in French. MORE >>
  • July 30 -The Hon. Deborah M. Gass, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) is retiring after serving 27 years on the Bench. MORE >>

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