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Federal Court working on access to justice, despite COVID-19; urgent matters still being heard

Monday, March 30, 2020 @ 12:03 PM | By Cristin Schmitz

The Federal Court is continuing to hear all urgent matters, as well as exceptional matters, on a “case-by-case” basis, by teleconference or videoconference according to the terms of its practice direction and order issued March 17, and the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on March 20, the court’s legal counsel, Andrew Baumberg has confirmed.

“The court continues to explore many options — both internally and in active discussions with the bar — to increase capacity to conduct hearings remotely,” Baumberg told The Lawyer’s Daily.

Asked when the national trial court will have issued most of its reserved judgments, Baumberg said it is difficult to predict. “In brief, some members of the court have more reserves than others, and some reserves are much more complicated to complete than others,” he explained. “Furthermore, given the rapidly evolving situation, it is not possible to predict how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the court in the coming weeks and months.”

In the meantime, the Federal Court continues to work on improving access to justice, including maintaining ongoing discussions with members of the bar to improve access to justice, he said. It has been holding, or is continuing with, remote meetings of the Rules Committee, and liaison meetings with the Aboriginal, intellectual property and immigration bars.

“As expected, part of the discussions with the bar is focused on measures to respond to the pandemic, but other longer-term practice issues are also being actively discussed,” Baumberg explained.

The court declined comment on whether any of its judges have contracted COVID-19, or are in self-isolation. “No information about the health of staff or members of the court will be shared,” he said.