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This week in court updates (July 6th-10th, 2020)

Hilary Peters

Every day, we push out updates on Twitter, LinkedIn, and our website on how Canadian courts are updating their practice directives in response to Covid-19. Here’s what we learned this past week. 

Courthouses in BC, Alberta, and Ontario got ready to reopen for in-person hearings this week, but a lot’s changed since their doors were shuttered back in March. Here’s what this past week’s court updates told us about the “new normal” in the wake of COVID-19.

The party just got a lot more exclusive

We learned this week that public and media attendance at the BC Supreme Court, the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Newfoundland Supreme Court will be limited for the foreseeable future. If you’re attending a courthouse in Nova Scotia or Alberta, wearing a non-medical mask is now required. Inside, physical distancing measures, enhanced sanitizing procedures, and endless walls of plexiglass are now in place to keep everyone safe. You’ll love the new decor. 

You still have to wear pants — at least in BC

Most court appearances will still happen remotely for now, and there are a few other things you need to know about video conferences. While you aren’t expected to bow or stand while speaking, the BC Supreme Court said this week that they still expect you to be in business attire. As for etiquette, do your best to find a place you won’t be interrupted. We’ve all seen those videos of newscasters trying to wrangle pets and/or children during an at-home broadcast… it’s very distracting.

Fortunately, members of the public who wish to observe court proceedings can still do so in a variety of ways. We learned this week that the BC Supreme Court will be allowing access via teleconference upon request— just as long as you keep your microphone and video turned off. The BC Court of Appeal will be live-streaming some proceedings to the general public and making audio recordings available to the media upon request after the fact.

E-filing is the hottest trend of 2020

Seriously, everyone should be e-filing right now. The BC Provincial Court and the Court Martial Appeal Court both announced this week that you’re encouraged to file remotely whenever possible. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench even made specific guidance available this week on exactly how to do that. Think about the health and safety of the court staff that is going to have to handle all that paper after you… file digitally!

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