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Nova Scotia court extends suspension of jury trials

Tuesday, May 12, 2020 @ 12:24 PM | By Terry Davidson

In further attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19, Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court has extended its shelving of jury trials until early September.

In a May 11 news release, the court stated that it has decided to extend the suspension after a meeting last week involving the chief justices, the chief judge and various provincial health officials, including Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.

The suspension will now stretch to Sept. 8. 

“Based on the advice of public health officials to continue social distancing, it would be unsafe to have hundreds of people gather for jury selections at this time,” states the release. “The Supreme Court will re-evaluate the situation again at the beginning of September.”

It was on March 13, in the early days of Canada’s experience with the pandemic, that Nova Scotia’s judiciary took preventative steps by immediately suspending all scheduled jury trials for 60 days, after which the situation would be re-evaluated.

The province’s Supreme Court has been operating under an “essential services model” since March 19.

This latest news release points to recent “advances” in court operations since then, as well as more happening “in the coming weeks.”  

“The Court has made advances in recent weeks to expand the services available under that model, where it is safe to do so. Virtual hearings and judicial settlement conferences are now available for some non-urgent civil matters in Halifax. Virtual hearings are possible because all the participants, including court staff and the judge, are participating remotely. That service will be expanded to the Family Division and General Division in the districts in the coming weeks.”