COVID-19 and the courts: March 18 update

Today’s update for courthouses across Canada

COVID-19 and the courts: March 18 update

Below is an update of protective measures courts are taking across the country in light of the new coronavirus COVID-19.

Federal Court
Practice Direction and Order (COVID-19)

● All Federal Court hearings previously scheduled to be heard between now and April 17, 2020 (the “Suspension Period”) are being adjourned sine die. This includes hearings that were scheduled to proceed by way of a telephone conference. Likewise, all General Sittings falling within the Suspension Period are cancelled. Matters already made returnable at a General Sittings during that time will be placed on the roll of the first General Sittings that is scheduled to be held at least two weeks after the end of the Suspension Period, for that city.

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● The Suspension Period is subject to the following two exceptions: (i) urgent matters, and (ii) matters that need to proceed as previously scheduled for exceptional reasons. The Court will determine what constitutes “urgent” and “exceptional” on a case-by-case basis.

British Columbia
Courthouse Closures: March 17, 2020

Court of Appeal: Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal for British Columbia’s Response to COVID-19 Dated 17 March 2020

Saskatchewan
Provincial Court:

  • Starting the week of March 16, 2020, all circuit courts at the northern circuit fly-in locations will be closed and the remaining circuit courts will be closed starting March 23, 2020. Court proceedings are being adjourned to dates past May 31, 2020. If you don’t have a lawyer helping you, we encourage you to contact the Court office responsible for the circuit court in advance of your scheduled date. Staff will assist you. In some circuit locations, trials and preliminary hearings for in-custody accused may proceed if possible and determined to be urgent by the presiding judge, in consultation with Crown and defence lawyers. All other trials and preliminary hearings will be adjourned to court dates after May 31, 2020. All in-custody accused from the circuit points should appear at the local permanent court point by video, telephone, agent or in-person depending on the circumstances. Lawyers should contact the local permanent court office if they have a client in-custody to determine how that client can appear in court.
  • CRIMINAL MATTERS – IN-CUSTODY ACCUSED: All 13 permanent Provincial Court locations will remain open. The scheduling and hearing of in-custody criminal trials, preliminary hearings, sentencing and bail hearings will proceed unless adjourned by the Court on its own motion or on application by the party. Wherever possible the Court will make full use of video and audio technology to effectively address criminal matters involving accused persons who are in-custody. If possible, bail or sentencing hearings will be conducted by use of video/audio conference instead of in-person unless otherwise directed by the judge. Lawyers are urged to appear by telephone on behalf of their clients, with arrangements being made in advance.
  • CRIMINAL MATTERS – NON-CUSTODY ACCUSED: Effective March 23, 2020, trials and preliminary hearings for accused who are not in-custody will be adjourned to dates after May 31, 2020. Where feasible, lawyers are encouraged to arrange early appearances in docket court. Police will make all new first appearances returnable after May 31, 2020. Those matters already scheduled will still be spoken to at that docket time and date except that judges will be urged to use video and audio technology where possible. Lawyers are urged to appear by telephone on behalf of their clients, with arrangements being made in advance. If further adjournments are requested, matters will be adjourned to dates after May 31, 2020.
  • Applications with respect to urgent Child Protection matters can proceed at Provincial Court permanent locations. Local judges will determine whether hearings will take place.
  • Provincial Tickets: All tickets and trials requiring your court appearance at all court locations (including Traffic Safety Court) between March 23 and May 31, 2020 will need to be adjourned. You must exercise one of the following options: You may be able to make a voluntary payment. Payments can be made online, by mail to the Fine Collection Branch, Box 5030, Regina, Saskatchewan S4P 3T9, or by telephone (306) 787-7821. Time to pay extensions, time to pay requests and not guilty pleas can be made by contacting the local court office by phone. We will be adjourning tickets to dates that are 10 weeks or more from your court date and you will be able to refer to the Court’s website for your adjourned date.
  • All stand-alone Bylaw Courts will be closed between March 23, 2020, and May 31, 2020.

Court of Queen's Bench:

  • Attending court: Court houses remain open to the public and press and media may attend proceedings. However, court visits by classes and other groups have been cancelled effective immediately. To reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, it is recommended that only those persons who are necessary to the proceedings before the Court attend. Parties with scheduled matters including trials, pre-trial conferences and hearings are encouraged, where appropriate, to adjourn those matters to a future date. Further, if any person either has symptoms associated with COVID-19 or has been in contact with someone who has symptoms, they are asked not to come to the Court House. If the person has a scheduled court matter that has not otherwise been postponed in accordance with this directive, they should contact the appropriate Local Registrar’s Office through their lawyer (if they have one) or by phone to either make arrangements to appear by phone or to determine if their matter is or will be adjourned.
  • Jury Trials Postponed: All jury trials scheduled to commence between March 16, 2020, and May 30, 2020, will be postponed. Any person who has been summoned to attend Court for jury duty for a matter scheduled before May 30, 2020, are not to attend Court. The adjournment of jury trials will be spoken to in Court or by video or audio conference on the date the matter was originally set for trial. Jury trials that were commenced before March 16, 2020, and are underway shall continue as scheduled subject to the discretion of the trial judge. For affected criminal cases, arrangements may be made for a re-election to trial by judge alone, if the accused wishes to proceed on that basis, and the trial will proceed during the scheduled time period (if there is no other bar to the matter so proceeding). If there is no re-election and the trial must therefore be adjourned until after May 31, the Court will give the case priority for rescheduling once normal operations resume.
  • Civil and Family Chambers: Parties to a proceeding that does not urgently need to proceed, are encouraged to delay bringing new applications to civil and family chambers (including matters involving maintenance enforcement and Inter-jurisdictional support orders) and to adjourn those already scheduled to a future date so long as the provincial government’s restriction respecting public gatherings remain in place. Effective immediately and until further notice, all participants in regularly scheduled civil and family chamber applications (other than child protection chambers) are required to attend by phone. Participants are expected to be available by phone at the commencement of chambers until they are called. The Local Registrar will call them at the phone number set out in their address for service unless the participant makes arrangements with the local registrar to be contacted at another number.
  • Child Protection: Child Protection Chamber matters scheduled for the week of March 16, 2020, to March 20, 2020, are postponed. All matters on the list for this week will be rescheduled by the Court to a future date and no person is required to attend court to speak to re-scheduling a matter.  Parties will be contacted by the Local Registrar this week and will be advised when their matter will be heard.
  • Pre-Trial Conferences, Trials, and other scheduled matters: All conferences, trials and other hearings that are currently scheduled will continue. A party wishing to seek an adjournment should contact the Local Registrar so that the question of whether a matter may be adjourned can be decided. Should the Court determine that a matter should be adjourned due to the implications of COVID-19, the Local Registrar will notify the parties to attend a teleconference to discuss alternate scheduling. Also, in consultation with Court Services, the Court is encouraging the use of video and audio appearances for individuals in custody. The Court will permit, when appropriate, applications to adjourn criminal proceedings, whether by consent or contested by telephone or video appearance. Criminal proceedings adjourned because of COVID-19 will receive priority for re-scheduling.

New Brunswick
COVID-19 Notice

  • Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, access to the courthouses in New Brunswick is restricted to only those persons who are necessary to the proceedings before the courts. This will include counsel, litigants, accused, witnesses, victim service workers and members of the media. The general public will not be allowed in the courthouse. Accessibility by the media will serve to honor the open court principle. No one who is experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms should attend the courthouses.

Provincial Court

  • Until further notice, all trials and preliminary inquiries will be adjourned except for matters involving an Accused who is in-custody or a matter considered urgent by the presiding judge. Self-represented Accused who are scheduled for trial must appear in court on their scheduled date as otherwise, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Accused who have symptoms related to COVID19 are asked to call the clerk’s office prior to their scheduled trial date. Until further notice, plea court, judicial interim release hearings, judgements, warrant applications and applications to vary court orders or undertakings will proceed as scheduled except that judges will be urged to use video and audio technology where possible. Unrepresented accused who are required to appear in Provincial Court for a first appearance, an election, a plea, a judgement or a sentencing hearing can appear in Court (unless they have COVID-19 related symptoms) or by telephone.

Court of Queen’s Bench

  • All jury trials scheduled are being adjourned until further notice. All matters scheduled before small claims adjudicators and case management masters are adjourned. All non-essential or non-urgent matters are being adjourned until further notice. Matters that may be considered in Chambers will continue uninterrupted. The offices of the Clerk of the Court of Queen’s Bench will remain open at reduced capacity to allow for the filing of documents. The ability to file documents electronically is an option being considered urgently and further directives will follow. Certain matters are deemed to be essential.

Court of Appeal

  • All motions and status hearings will be heard as scheduled, but by telephone conference. Lawyers and self-represented parties are being contacted to provide them with call-in details. The appeals scheduled for Monday, March 16 through to Wednesday, March 18 are being adjourned while the Court tests measures that could allow appeals to be heard from remote locations; that is, from one’s home office. Failing these measures, the appeals will be adjourned or perhaps heard by telephone with the consent of all parties. Any party claiming that the hearing of an appeal is urgent will be allowed to make a request to be heard by a single judge to determine if the appeal is indeed urgent. Requests for adjournments will be entertained by telephone.

Prince Edward Island

  • For the next two weeks the Georgetown Provincial Courthouse will be closed.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Provincial Court:

  • All trials and appearances are suspended except where the accused is currently in custody in which case, trials, bails hearings and urgent matters will be heard. A further update regarding future Provincial Court processes will be posted by close of business on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. As of Monday, March 16, 2020, if you have a family, civil, criminal court, Provincial Offences/traffic court or Contraventions Act appearance in the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court, you do not need to attend unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter, or an urgent family or child/adult protection matter. This applies as well to all circuit court cases. Travel by the Court party to all circuit centre locations has been suspended. If you are not in custody and you have a criminal court appearance in the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Court from Monday, March 16, 2020 to Friday, May 22, 2020 you do not need to attend court. Non-urgent family matters set to be heard from Monday, March 16, 2020 to Friday, May 22, 2020 will be adjourned for ten (10) weeks from the scheduled court date or the next court date thereafter. Only emergency/mandatory matters will proceed. Traffic Court and Contraventions Act matters set to proceed from Monday, March 16 to Friday, May 22, 2020 will be adjourned indefinitely.

Yukon
Notice to Public and Legal Profession – March 17,2020
Announcement from Territorial Court of Yukon – March 17, 2020

  • Most proceedings of the Court are open to the public. However, until further notice no members of the public will be permitted in courtrooms unless required for a Court matter, or unless the Court directs otherwise.
  • Yukon encourages counsel to work together on consent adjournments for matters currently scheduled to proceed between now and June 4, 2020. In any event, the Court may, on its own initiative, decide to adjourn matters that are not considered to be urgent.
  • Circuits -- There will be no circuit travel by the Court party. All matters where the accused is not in custody will be adjourned from the upcoming Court circuit for a period of at least two regularly scheduled Court circuits. All in-custody matters will be presumed to proceed as expeditiously as possible. In cases where the matter has not been set for trial, preliminary inquiry or sentencing, the matter shall be adjourned to a Whitehorse docket court to be spoken to by counsel. In other cases, however, the expectation is that every effort will be made by counsel to agree to have all these matters utilize technology. Alleged offenders and witnesses will not be required to travel between the communities or from outside the Yukon for Court proceedings, unless the Court directs otherwise. In those cases where counsel cannot agree and an application is required, the Court will accept informal applications for audio and video appearances (by ie. e-mail). Pre-trial conferences will be held in every case that requires judicial direction in this regard. All other cases where the trial, preliminary inquiry, and sentencing has already been scheduled, and the offender is not in custody, will be adjourned to a fix-date court in Whitehorse on June 4, 2020 or a date thereafter. Show causes will be conducted as normal from the Community.
  • Child Protection -- All urgent or statutorily mandated matters, including the initial presentation hearing, the protection hearing, applications for supervision orders and for extension of time, and any other urgent motions shall proceed. Where possible, parties shall attend by teleconference. All other matters shall be adjourned to June 4, 2020 or a date thereafter

Nunavut

  • Effective March 16, 2020, all satellite court operations in Pond Inlet are closed until further notice.

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