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Nova Scotia Appeal Court releases ‘practice directive’ for hearings

Tuesday, June 23, 2020 @ 1:36 PM | By Terry Davidson

Nova Scotia’s Appeal Court has released new directions on how expanded remote hearings will be conducted during the pandemic, including the “etiquette and civility” expected from participants.  

It was on June 5 that the court announced it was widening the types of matters it would hear remotely. During much of the COVID-19 pandemic, the court had been limiting itself to urgent and essential chambers matters only, which were heard mostly via telephone or video.

“Accordingly, the Court has developed a practice directive outlining how hearings will be held during the pandemic, including such things as etiquette and civility in remote hearings, instructions for electronic filing of documents, and media access,” states a recent news release.

“Subject to any order of the Court, all matters heard in the Court of Appeal on or after June 15, 2020, will be conducted pursuant to this practice directive,” it goes on to state. “Details of the practice directive are subject to change as public health guidelines are updated in Nova Scotia.”

Section five of the practice directive deals with etiquette, which advises that while lawyers are not required to wear gowns for remote hearings, they must wear “business attire.” Counsel, however, gown up if they so wish.

It also advises participants to “make reasonable efforts to find a quiet space with a neutral background, and to avoid or reduce the risk of interruptions during the hearing.” They should also mute or turn off audio notification alerts on their digital devices.

Parties should not eat during the hearing, should not move away from the screen or turn off their camera unless permitted. They are also to speak slowly and clearly — particularly when there is lag or delay in the audio or video — and to “take special care not to interrupt one another.”

Under the section dealing with civility, it calls for participants to “be flexible” if there are technical difficulties or “other challenges that other participants may experience.”   

“The Court recognizes that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many participants will be working from home and/or on modified schedules, and that many will be dealing with particular challenges related to technology, child, and elder care,” it states.

Parties should also “communicate with one another in advance of remote hearings to resolve as many hearing details as possible.”

The practice directive also covers e-filing, technical difficulties, media and the public and formats of appeals, be they remote, in person or in writing only.