A remote hearing before the Ontario Divisional Court was live-streamed today. Also in this week’s update on how the justice system is pivoting in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic: Canadian Courts’ jurisdiction to run virtual hearings, Australian Courts’ pivot to holding all proceedings as remote hearings and the UK’s move to gather more evidence to serve the Family Division.
Live-StreamingCourt Proceedings – The Divisional Court of Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice live-streamed the virtual hearing of a judicial review on YouTube on Friday, April 17, 2020. The Honourable Katherine E. Swinton, the Honourable Lise G. Favreau and the Honourable Harriet E. Sachs all appeared via Zoom, with counsel appearing as they made submissions to the court. For most of the 7 hour application, over 150 people watched proceedings.
In the judicial review, Nation Rise Wind Farm Limited Partnership challenged the Ontario government’s decision to revoke a wind farm’s permit after concluding the turbines would harm local bat populations.
At the end of the application, the parties were sent to a private virtual break out room to discuss costs and reappeared reporting that the meeting was useful.
Viewers were instructed not to make any recording or photograph of this live proceeding being heard before the Court per the Section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act
Confirming the Court’s jurisdiction to hold virtual hearings – Lawyers across Canada are offering their analysis that the courts have the authority to lawfully conduct E-Hearings. Check out the analysis in British Columbia and in Ontario.
“Indeed, for most people, it is likely to be easier to dial or log in to an ongoing court proceeding remotely than it would be to physically attend at a courthouse. The goal of the open court principle is to ensure that the courts are open and their conduct can be scrutinized. The current environment may result in that being fulfilled to a great extent than was previously possible.”Source: www.litigate.com
The Federal Court of Australia goes Virtual – In a notice dated April 15, 2020, the Federal Court of Australia provides that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all hearings before the Court (other than in truly exceptional circumstances) are currently proceeding using remote access technology, including Microsoft Teams and telephone conferencing. The court posted a simple guide for litigants on appearing in Virtual Hearings.
On April 16, 2020, the Federal Court of Australia refused a Respondent’s application for adjournment in light of the COVID-19 emergency noting that “public institutions such as the Court must do all they can to facilitate the continuation of the economy and essential services of government, including the administration of justice”. The Court considered issues of any technological limitations, physical separation of legal teams, expert witnesses in the virtual environment, lay witnesses in the virtual environment (in particular on cross-examination), and document management.
The UK Family Courts gather evidence for next steps – The President of the Family Division in the UK Courts announced a two-week rapid consultation on the use of remote hearings in the family justice system. It will run April 14-28, 2020 with the intention of new guidance to the profession in early May.
The Nuffield Family Justice Observatory is conducting the consultation and asking seven (7) key questions.
Why this matters: When over 150 people attend the live-stream of a virtual hearing, it is great evidence that technology can help the judicial system achieve its goals of the open court principle and of better access to justice for all. Check out the last two weeks’ updates on where the judicial system is pivoting to embrace technology that helps improve how we serve users, and learn how to bring a virtual hearing yourself.