The Courts during COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has likely sparked great uncertainty about the status of your litigation matter. You may have found yourself wondering: “Are the Courts continuing to operate? Will there be serious delays with my matter? Where do I keep up to date with what is happening in the Courts?
Since the outbreak, the Courts were required to balance the health and safety of court participants while ensuring that access to justice is maintained. The Courts immediately put in place preventative measures, limiting their operations at the counters, and suspending in-court hearings and limitation periods and other timelines, retroactive to March 16, 2020. Due to the fluidity of the circumstances, the measures taken by Courts are frequently changing. Since mid-March, the situation with the pandemic has evolved and the Courts have been attempting to implement effective measures to keep up with the changes. Here at Ross & McBride LLP we want to alleviate the uncertainty as much as possible and have set out a few of the measures taken for Civil matters in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice:
- Initially, the Courts were only hearing urgent matters. Since then, the scope of matters being heard has expanded to allow certain non-urgent matters be dealt with either in-writing or virtually, by telephone or video-conference. The Regional Notices to the Profession identify the matters being heard in each region at this time;
- Courts will not resume in-person hearings until July 6, 2020, at the earliest;
- Actions and Applications may be issued via the Civil Claims Online Portal; and
- For regular, non-urgent matters that have not been specifically identified in a region’s Notice to Profession, Courts are discouraging in-person filing and are encouraging documents to be mailed or filed online via the portal, if possible. The Civil Claims Online Portal has expanded the scope of documents accepted for e-filing.
For further updates and detailed Notices, be sure to review the Ontario SCJ website
Although the Courts are running on a limited basis, it does not mean your matter is necessarily brought to a halt. If your matter is at a stage in the proceeding where it cannot be heard in Court at this time, counsel and self-represented litigants should take this opportunity to move their matter ahead through alternate methods, if possible. Virtual meetings, mediations and discoveries can be conducted and are encouraged to ensure your matter moves ahead and will not be stuck in the inevitable backlog the Courts will experience once they fully reopen.