Update on Court Operations
On March 19, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 virus, the Supreme Court of British Columbia suspended all regular operations, including all non-urgent civil and family matters that were scheduled for hearing between March 19, 2020 to May 1, 2020. On April 16, 2020 this suspension was extended to May 29, 2020. As you can imagine, many individuals have been negatively affected by the delay of their court proceedings and lawyers have been anxiously awaiting news of the court reopening ‘electronically’ for non-urgent matters so that we can start working through the increasing backlog of issues.
Therefore, the announcement made by the British Columbia Supreme Court last Friday, April 17, 2020, was very welcome news. The Supreme Court of British Columbia announced that commencing April 20, 2020, it will begin with telephone conference hearings for non-urgent matters that were scheduled to be heard during the Suspension Period.
However, there are some significant limitations as to which cases are eligible for a telephone conference hearing. These are as follows:
Only matters that were originally scheduled between March 19, 2020 to May 29, 2020 can be heard by TCH;
Only one issue in each matter can be heard at each TCH;
The disputed issue will only be heard if submission can be completed in less than an hour;
The disputed issue is suitable for determination by way of TCH;
Only one Affidavit can be submitted by each party and the Affidavit cannot exceed 10-pages.
Both parties or counsels in the disputed matter must be able to attend the scheduled TCH; and
The court has the discretion to determine whether the disputed issue is suitable for a TCH.
Unfortunately, these limitations mean that the vast majority of issues such as trials, summary trials, and chamber applications that would take more than 1 hour to hear, continue to be adjourned indefinitely.
Looking on the bright side, it appears that our BC Courts are moving towards a system where we can expect to see increased remote capabilities and reliance on technology. This will benefit everyone in the long run and in particular I believe will improve access to justice. I applaud all of the people working diligently behind the scenes making this possible and look forward to what the future will bring for our justice system.