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Ontario Superior Court of Justice expands virtual hearings, provides etiquette guide

Thursday, May 14, 2020 @ 2:10 PM | By Amanda Jerome

Ontario’s Superior Court Chief Justice, Geoffrey Morawetz, released a notice to the profession on May 13 that consolidated previous notices, outlined the expanded list of matters that can be heard virtually in each region and directed counsel to move cases forward during the pandemic.

The notice explained that counsel and parties are “expected to take an active role in moving cases forward to final settlement or disposition, including seeking and attending virtual court attendances.”

The notice outlined responsibilities of counsel during the pandemic and offered guidance on etiquette.

For example, the notice indicated that “where it is possible through virtual means to comply with procedural timelines, produce documents, engage in discoveries, attend pre-trials, case conferences and hearings, and respond to undertakings, those steps should be pursued.”

“Where COVID-19 has prevented lawyers and parties from fulfilling their obligations, they should be prepared to explain to the Court why COVID-19 has rendered compliance not feasible,” the notice added.

The court also requested the “cooperation of counsel and parties to engage in every effort to resolve matters.”

“For civil proceedings, this includes attendance at mediation — whether prescribed or not — where a mediator is willing to engage in a virtual mediation,” the notice added.  

According to the notice, the court is “grateful for the tremendous support it has received from the Attorney General and the bar” and is “committed to overcoming this crisis as quickly as possible, and to significantly modernizing its operations for the future.”