Focus On

Saskatchewan court lengthens suspension of jury trials, loosens some restrictions

Friday, April 24, 2020 @ 12:23 PM | By Terry Davidson

Saskatchewan’s Court of Queen’s Bench has extended its postponement of jury trials to later this year in efforts to “keep everyone safe” during the COVID-19 health crisis.

According to an April 23 update, the court states that it “is still not possible to proceed with jury trials in June 2020 due to the ongoing requirement to practice social distancing” and that they are now being put off to the fall.

“The Court is mindful of its obligation to hear and process as many matters as it can, while simultaneously respecting the need to adhere to recommendations and protocols designed to keep everyone safe,” the court states in this latest directive update.

However, it also states that while “a return to ‘back to normal’ is not yet a reality … it is apparent that the time has come to loosen” some of the restrictions imposed in March.

Starting May 1, the court will lift its restriction on hearing appearance day applications, which will proceed by telephone.

Also, as of June 1, civil, family and child protection pretrial conferences will resume. The court will assess the “nature and relative urgency of the action” to determine who “will be offered pre-trial conference dates.”

To address backlog, the court will “be substantially increasing” its summer sittings of these pretrial conferences to as many as 200 during the months of July and August. They will be heard either by telephone or in person, where it is possible.

Also starting June 1, the court will lift restrictions when it comes to hearing only urgent and emergency chambers applications and commence a “chambers blitz” for two weeks in June.

“A concerted effort will be made to hear the chambers applications that had been postponed … as well as new applications,” states the directive. “All chambers applications, unless otherwise ordered by the assigned chambers Justice, will be by telephone. All available judicial resources will be utilized. During this period, additional non-traditional chambers dates will be set in many of the judicial centres, recognizing that additional time is required for hearing matters by telephone, thus potentially limiting the number of matters heard per day.”