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Nova Scotia courts adjusting to rise in COVID-19 cases

Friday, December 17, 2021 @ 12:05 PM | By Terry Davidson


In response to record-high outbreaks of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, courts across the province are again shifting operations in efforts to curb the spread of the virus and the new omicron variant.

On Dec. 17 it was announced that, until Jan. 4, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court’s general and family divisions will be using a “modified essential services model in all locations.”

“Under a modified essential services model, in-person proceedings in the Supreme Court will be limited to those deemed urgent or essential by a judge,” states a notice. “Jury trials currently underway will continue until they conclude. Supreme Court judges currently hearing non-jury trials will decide whether to adjourn the proceedings or continue until they conclude.”

Court participants are reminded that mandatory masking is in place.

Non-urgent matters able to be held via telephone or videoconference will be allowed to proceed, provided there is enough staff and sufficient equipment.

Rules around physical distancing are also being reinstated in courthouses across the province.

On Dec. 16, a directive stated that the judiciary’s All Courts COVID-19 Recovery Committee has recommended “that physical distancing requirements in all … courthouses and courtrooms return to two metres,” effective Dec. 20.

The move is “in line with public health guidance and the provincial government’s decision to reinstate physical distancing requirements and indoor and outdoor gathering limits,” it states.

“Further to this, the COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place in the courts throughout much of the pandemic will remain in place for the foreseeable future.”

Access to courthouses will continue to be limited to those who are directly involved with a proceeding, who work in the building, who have an appointment or who have been given approval by a judge to view a proceeding in person. Masking will continue to be required in all public areas of courthouses.

In the name of the open courts principle, members of the media are allowed to attend court in person, provided there is enough space in the courtroom. Other options include telephone or videoconferencing.

The announcement came the same day Nova Scotia announced 287 new cases of COVID-19 — reportedly the highest single-day count in that province since the start of the pandemic. It also marked the seventh day in a row where the number of new infections was more than 100.

On Dec. 9, the province announced 52 new cases. But since Dec. 10, there has been an average of 152 new infections daily.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily, please contact Terry Davidson at t.davidson@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5899.