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Nova Scotia Supreme Court moves into ‘safe services’ mode

Tuesday, June 01, 2021 @ 2:56 PM | By Terry Davidson

Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court will be returning to a “safe services model” and allow non-urgent matters to proceed in person.

According to a notice from the court, the change takes effect June 7 and will involve the Supreme Court’s general division in all areas of the province.

“This means that counsel and parties will no longer have to establish that a matter is urgent or essential to proceed in-person,” the notice states. “Non-urgent in-person hearings will be permitted, provided they can be conducted safely and in accordance with established protocols to protect against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

The court continues to recommend that “disposable medical masks, rather than reusable cloth masks, be worn at all times in courtrooms, including when an individual is speaking.”

“This recommendation also applies to judicial settlement conferences and any other in-person court proceeding held in a boardroom, jury room, or other enclosed space inside a Nova Scotia courthouse. Sheriffs will provide a disposable medical mask to all witnesses, parties and defendants involved in an in-person court proceeding. Counsel are expected to bring their own disposable medical mask. However, for those who may not have one, a supply will be available at the front doors of the courthouses.”

There will continue to be limits on the number of people allowed inside courthouses.

“Only those individuals who work in the building, who are participating in a court proceeding or who have an appointment will be permitted in courthouses,” states the notice. “To help maintain the open courts principle, members of the media will be permitted to cover court proceedings in person; however, whenever possible media will be encouraged to participate remotely by telephone or videoconferencing.”

Also, the current suspension of filing deadlines will be lifted in all areas of the province as of 11:59 p.m. on June 6. Public access to files will resume June 7, provided there is space at the courthouse to view them and still maintain physical distancing.

Before coming to the courthouse, individuals must book an appointment to view files. Viewing spaces will be disinfected between appointments and visitors will be subject to health screening at the front door.

In mid-May, the court began expanding some of its services as part of its essential services model in a bid to lessen backlog caused by the ongoing health crisis.

At that point, the Supreme Court’s general division began hearing non-urgent matters so long as they could be done with telephone or videoconferencing.

Under that essential services model, in-person proceedings were limited to those deemed urgent or essential by a judge. All other matters requiring in-person appearances were adjourned and rescheduled.

Nova Scotia reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 on June 1.

Still, Premier Iain Rankin noted that case numbers have been going down in the province and that it is in a “good position” to start reopening its economy.

“I’m pleased to see our cases trending downward and Nova Scotians should be proud of their efforts,” said Rankin in a statement. “But just because we are seeing fewer cases does not mean we can disregard the public health measures. We are in a good position as we enter Phase 1 of our reopening plan [June 2]. Let’s continue do our part by following the public health protocols and getting tested for COVID-19.”

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