Watching Canada’s Justice System Pivot

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, I am tracking the places where I see the Canadian Justice system pivot. In the past week: 

Zoom used for urgent application at B.C. Supreme Court – Last Friday, Chilwin Cheng reported that he successfully held a Zoom meeting for an urgent injunction hearing at the B.C. Supreme Court. Five sets of counsel attempted to appear by telephone without success, so Mr. Cheng offered to set up a Zoom meeting. The Clerk agreed and Mr. Cheng reports that he set it up within minutes, that the Judge and Clerk called in and that call quality was excellent. Find out how to bring an urgent application using Zoom for the hearing and Caselines for the documents. 

“I am writing to lend my voice to the growing list of practitioners, judges, academics and court users who are beseeching governments across Canada to see COVID-19 and the courts’ woeful inability to pivot as a wake-up call.”

Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin

Former Chief Justice McLachlin calls for a pivot – She writes “Our court system must be sufficiently funded to be able to function in a modern fashion — no longer reliant on paper, a bricks-and-mortar-only approach to the courthouse and a mode of interaction that requires people to be physically in the same space.” 

Zoom in Texas Courts – If you need help using Zoom, the Texas Judicial Branch posted a page full of instructions and helpful tips. In Texas, judges have been given the ability to stream and host court proceedings via Zoom and YouTube. Judge Emily Miskel of the 470th District Court, Judge Roy Ferguson of the 394th District Court, and Family Law Section Chair-Elect Kristal Thomson posted a free YouTube with the Judges showing the Texas legal community how to prepare for Zoom hearings. 

Texas made its justice system pivot to Zoom

In a free YouTube Video, judges in Texas guide users through that justice system’s pivot onto Zoom.

UK launches “Remote Courts Worldwide” – Perhaps as a sign of things to come,  the U.K. Government launched a remote court platform in response to the pandemic. Professor Richard Susskind, author and president of the Society for Computers and Law leads the service. Check out Susskind’s latest book: “Online Courts and the Future of Justice”.

Amici Curiae (AC) has pivoted to offer “Virtual AC” – Virtual AC is the online version of the AC Friendship Society legal forms workshops. AC offered its volunteers “Virtual AC Training” last week, as they make the move online  AC helps the public correctly fill out their legal forms regardless of their means.

MyLawBC continues to offer users two online interactive dispute resolution tools –  The Mediation tool takes people to the Family Resolution Centre where free online mediation helps separating parents to develop their parenting plan. The Dialogue tool allows parents to collaborate on a legally-valid separation agreement.

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) remains open and fully operational – Canada’s first online tribunal has extended timelines for respondents to submit completed Dispute Responses.

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