- Posted by admin
- On March 30, 2020
As the challenges related to COVID-19 rapidly evolve, the legal community is adapting to provide a flexible response. St. Lawrence Barristers is doing the same by continuing to provide streamlined legal services while working remotely. In order to support new and existing clients during this challenging time, we will provide weekly updates that cover important developments in the legal community as to how legal services are being provided.
Administration of Justice and Court Procedures
Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada, our highest court, has provided guidance as to what steps it is taking during this time:
- Cases previously scheduled for hearing in March, April and May are adjourned, tentatively, to June 2020.
- The Court will continue to issue judgements on applications for leave and on appeal for the time being.
- Court documents are to be filed by email. The Registrar will let everyone know when to file original paper copies when the Court is fully functioning again.
- Deadlines imposed by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada are suspended until further notice.
- Deadlines imposed by an order of the Court, a Judge or the Registrar are suspended until further notice.
- Deadlines imposed by statute are still currently in effect. If this is creating an issue, you can contact the Registry by email.
- Proof of service may be filed by email.
Ontario Court of Appeal
The Ontario Court of Appeal has put out the following updates:
- The Court is suspending scheduled appeals until April 3.
- Urgent appeals can be heard based on written materials or remotely.
- Non-urgent appeals can still be heard by requesting that it be heard based on written materials already filed.
- Factums can be filed electronically.
Superior Court of Justice
On March 27, Chief Justice Morawetz released a memo to the legal community that affirmed the Court’s constitutional responsibility to ensure access to justice remains available. To ensure this, the Chief Justice is consulting with the Regional Senior Judges and is increasing the scope of events that may be heard remotely starting April 6. There will be a further update by Thursday, April 2 which will itemize the plan for expanded virtual courts. As a reminder, the Court has currently suspended all regular operations and is only hearing the following urgent matters remotely:
- Judicial pre-trials on urgent in-custody matters
- Bail, bail reviews, and detention reviews
- Guilty pleas and sentencing hearings for persons in custody in urgent circumstances
Ontario Court of Justice
On March 28, the Ontario Court of Justice provided direction that people should not attend courthouses unless a judge requires them to be in court for a hearing, or if they are unable to submit an urgent filing in a criminal or family matter by email. All other appearances shall occur remotely and can be scheduled through the relevant Trial Coordinator’s office.
A separate notice has been sent to the media explaining how to request access to court proceedings by remote attendance.
Members of the public that would like to attend court proceedings need to reach out to counsel involved in the proceedings, who are then asked in turn to reach out to the Trial Coordinator’s Office. If granted permission to virtually attend, non-party participants are asked to keep their phone on mute during the proceedings.
- All Federal Court hearings are adjourned until at least April 17, with two exceptions:
- urgent matters,
- matters that need to proceed as previously scheduled for exceptional reasons. The court will determine on a case-by-case basis what is “urgent” or “exceptional”.
- Parties are encouraged to use the Court’s E-filing portal. Using this system during the Suspension Period exempts the requirement to file paper copies.
- The court will be flexible. More info here.
Other General Updates
- The Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG) is asking members of the legal profession and public NOT to attend courthouses in person at this time, unless it is URGENT (or they are required to do so).
- All limitation periods and procedural time periods are retroactively suspended to March 16, 2020.
- Real Estate deals can be completed by Remote Signing/Virtual Commissioning.
- The Law Society of Ontario phone line remains open if required.
- The Law Society of Ontario has launched an emergency family law referral telephone line for self-represented litigants in determining if their matter is sufficiently urgent to be heard by the courts.
- Legal Aid Ontario has stopped all in-person staff and per diem services in the courthouses across the province.
- Legal Aid Ontario is still providing summary legal advice services for criminal matters by calling 1-800-668-8258. Individuals who would have received in-person legal aid services through the Family Law Information Centres can now get help by calling the 1-800 line.
- Lawyers Feed the Hungry is still continuing! Food packages to go will be provided.
- Steps to Justice has a great page for anyone that is facing legal problems during this time. It covers employment, family, housing, criminal, immigration/refugee, and various tribunals.
- Law Society Tribunal hearings have all been cancelled until April 30th.
- There is a silver lining through this crisis that the courts are being forced to advance their previously outdated technologies.
- Detention review during a pandemic – the Superior Court of Justice recently ruled that COVID-19 is considered a “material change” in circumstances for the purpose of a criminal bail review (R v JS, 2020 ONSC 1710).
- There are potential privacy concerns that arise authorizing the collection of information about individuals who are sick or in quarantine.
- Lawyers can take active steps to mitigate the effects of this crisis:
- Don’t Panic
- Establish clear lines of communication
- Develop work-from-home capacity and;
Stay tuned for a further update next week!