- Posted by admin
- On April 6, 2020
The legal community is taking unprecedented action to mitigate the negative effects of COVID-19. Over the last week, there have been many steps taken by the courts and the community at large, as this crisis continues. All levels of government have taken significant steps to enforce social distancing measures and curb the spread of this virus. As an essential service, the legal community still needs to continue on. Here is an update from last week.
Administration of Justice and Court Procedures
Ontario Court of Appeal
- All matters will proceed by remote appearance, or in writing.
- All requirements of filing hardcopy documents have been relaxed for the duration of this emergency, and will be filed electronically.
- To the extent possible, documents must be filed in text-searchable PDF. Documents must be filed by email, or by the delivery of a USB key.
- The size of filing by email is limited to 35MB. Larger documents must be divided into smaller parts.
- Any documents that require filing under seal shall be password-protected.
- Rather than filing books of authorities, the preference is for parties to hyperlink their factums to the judgement databases found on the websites of Canadian courts or CanLii.
- Parties are encouraged to hyperlink the key documents referred to in their factums and use PDF bookmarks to facilitate navigation of the materials filed.
- In the event that an affidavit of service cannot be commissioned due to COVID-19, it must still be e-filed, and accompanied by either an acknowledgement from the document(s) recipient or an explanation as to why the acknowledgement could not be obtained.
- The ONCA is using videoconferencing technology offered by CourtCall (courtcall.com). At least (3) business days before a hearing, a request must be submitted to CourtCall to schedule the hearing over video/telephone conference. For more information, see here.
- The time prescribed to take any step in respect to any civil proceedings at the ONCA is automatically extended until further direction by the Court. This does not apply to a hearing for which a notice of hearing has been sent, or a civil proceedings that is being case managed.
- Urgent family law appeals will continue to be heard and are not subject to any automatic time extensions. Matters that are likely deemed to be urgent by a case management judge include:
- Requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent;
- Issues relating to the well-being of a child; and
Superior Court of Justice – Divisional Court
- Starting April 6, Divisional Court will begin to schedule hearings on non-urgent matters arising throughout the Province of Ontario.
- Matters previously scheduled for hearing must be rescheduled. All necessary information may be found here.
Superior Court of Justice – Civil Matters
- Matters in addition to “urgent” matters will begin to be heard starting April 6. These include pre-trial conferences, Rule 7 motions or applications for approval of settlement (in writing), and consent motions (in writing).
- Further information on family and criminal matters may be found here.
The Federal Court has released a detailed practice direction and order which may be found here. The main changes from the previous order include the following:
- The Suspension period is extended for now until May 15, 2020.
- Recommencement of case-management hearings.
- Rescheduling hearings that have been adjourned due to the crisis.
- Waiver of filing fees.
- The commission of filing affidavits remotely.
- Suspension of the requirement to gown.
- The conventional two-week period of reduced weeks in the summer will be cancelled.
- Details are provided for electronic filing, stressing the importance of numbering pages accurately, and encouraging the use of bookmarks.
Other General Updates
- The Canadian Media Lawyers Association (CMLA) is advocating to ensure accessibility of the public to the various court hearings across the country. On April 1, the CMLA sent a letter to all levels of court, asking them to ensure that the new modified court procedures address several issues, including, (i) how the media will have timely access to dockets to know what proceedings are happening, (ii) how the media will have access to hearings, and at no cost, and (iii) how members of the media will be able to participate in hearings if required.
- Various lawyers’ regulatory bodies are in the process of determining how the crisis will affect upcoming articling students. The Law Society of Ontario has cancelled the June licensing exams, while the Alberta law society has changed the duration of the articling term.
- Some voices within the legal community are trying to find the silver lining for law firms through this crisis. Hopefully, there may be long-lasting benefits in partially adopting a work-from-home culture for the industry.
That’s all for this week!