WONDERING WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN VISITING A COURTHOUSE?
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Information Regarding Vaccinations:
The planning and distribution of vaccines in Ontario remains fluid and has continued to evolve. For example, in addition to the recent announcement expanding vaccine availability in hotspot postal code locations, the province announced it would offer 24/7 COVID-19 vaccinations for individuals aged 40 and over at 20 pharmacy locations, with the majority located in hot spot communities.
All eligible individuals can find a local pharmacy location offering vaccines through Ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine.
To make sure you have the most up-to-date information on vaccine eligibility, the Recovery Secretariat continues to encourage you to monitor your local Public Health Unit for details about when and how to get a vaccine. Everyone is encouraged to access their vaccination at the earliest opportunity that is offered to them, by their local public health unit.
It is critical that you continue to diligently follow all of the protocols in place within MAG facilities. And, importantly, if you’re feeling sick – stay home.
On April 16th, the province communicated an extension to the stay-at-home order and further restrictions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 transmission in Ontario and on April 21st, the Recovery Secretariat sent an email to ensure we are all aware of new guidance communicated by the SCJ and the OCJ.
MASK WEARING IN COURTHOUSES
Effective Tuesday February 16, the following enhancements will be applicable in all courthouses across the province:
As before, the exceptions in place for individuals who can not wear a face covering, for medical or other accommodation issues, remain in place.
In addition, the new masking requirements for the public are now reflected on Ontario.ca, to inform individuals who are planning to attend a courthouse.
MAG GUIDEBOOK-PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES FOR REOPENING COURTS;
(the Guidebook is a living document and may continue to be updated over time)
For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.
On June 19, 2020, Ontario's Recovery Secretariat hosted a virtual town hall on COVID-19 safety and the reopening of Ontario's Courts. The town hall offered an overview of MAG's phased, gradual and responsive plan for court recovery, which aligns with the Framework for Reopening Our Province.
Here are materials from the town hall and information session:
*you will need a ONe-Key account
IMPORTANT NOTE: The amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure, in force on January 1, 2021, require email addresses to be provided on backsheets when filing via CaseLines. The requirement to provide email addresses is also set out in the Supplementary Notice to the Profession and Litigants in Civil and Family Matters Including Electronic Filings and Document Sharing (Caselines Pilot).
On January 7, 2020, the above Notice was updated with current information about payment of filing fees for documents filed by email. It now provides, in section 2 (Electronic Court Filings – Justice Services Online):
Where counsel and parties deliver materials by email, subject to direction from the Court, they undertake to file the same materials in paper format, and pay the requisite filing fee, at the court when regular court operations resume. This includes preparation of the court’s Continuing Record for family cases.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CASELINES FOR FAMILY LAW, VISIT HERE.
The Daily Court Lists website (www.ontariocourtdates.ca/), which publishes the daily court lists for both the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice, introduced two enhancements in Dec 2020:
1. The website now publishes two days of court lists. Case information is provided for both the current day and the next day, and is updated each day at 8am; and
2. The published case information is updated three additional times during the day.
LATE DELIVERY OF EXPERT REPORTS
On May 19th, the Chair of the Expert Evidence Subcommittee of the Civil Rules Committee (Court of Appeal) asked for comment from FOLA regarding problems with the late delivery of Expert Reports.
DISCOUNT RATE - CIVIL RULES COMMITTEE
The report was prepared by the discount rate subcommittee to assist the Civil Rules Committee in its quadrennial review in accordance with s.66(4) of the Courts of Justice Act of the following:
1. the discount rate to be used in determining the amount of an award in respect of future pecuniary damages;
2. the method of calculating the amount to be included in an award of damages to offset any liability for income tax on income from investment of the award;
3. the prejudgment interest rate with respect to the rate of interest on damages for non-pecuniary loss.
As you know, MAG and the SCJ have piloted CaseLines through selected proceedings in Toronto and the SCJ announced today through a Notice to FOLA that the platform will expand to selected civil, family, criminal, bankruptcy and Divisional Court proceedings in the Central West, Northeast and Southwest Regions in late June 2021.
Please note that demonstrations will be recorded and posted to the CaseLines Tip Sheet page on the SCJ’s website. Past recordings (and the Tip Sheet page) can be found here.
UPCOMING DATES/TIMES FOR TRAINING:
When: June 21, 2021 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
When: June 23, 2021 08:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
When: June 17, 2021 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
When: Jun 30, 2021 08:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Demonstration #1: June 22, 2021 08:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
When: Jun 23, 2021 01:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
If you find you are having difficulty logging into any of the above sessions on their scheduled date, please contact: Alphonso, Cheryl (JUD) Cheryl.Alphonso@ontario.ca
Click here or on the image above for a one hour and 15 minutes live demonstration with CaseLines titled "An introduction to the Evidence Sharing Platform" held on May 26, 2021.
CASELINES DEMONSTRATION RECORDINGS
These CaseLines demonstration videos have been posted on the SCJ website and are also available in the links below.
NOTE: If you have trouble logging in to any of the above sessions, please contact Cheryl Alphonso at Cheryl.Alphonso@ontario.ca
In April 2020, FOLA, along with the Advocates’ Society, the Ontario Bar Association, and the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, created the joint E-Hearings Task Force to review technologies that can help ensure Ontario’s justice system continue to function during and following the coronavirus pandemic.
On May 13, 2020, the e-Hearings Taskforce released some helpful documents (linked below) on best practices to help provide guidance to anyone who is considering preparing for and participating in a remote hearing. A 2nd Version of the English version of the Best Practices for Remote Hearings was released on May 28th, 2021.
ENGLISH VERSIONS (2ND EDITION) (Published May 28, 2021
FRENCH VERSIONS (Published May 13, 2020)
WE WANT YOUR FEEDBACK! If you've participated in a remote hearing and have some additional suggestions, we'd love to hear them! Please email Katie Robinette at firstname.lastname@example.org and put "REMOTE HEARINGS" in the subject line.
Best Practices for Remote Examinations for Discovery & Best Practices for Remote Mediations (published May 13, 2020)
The OTLA prepared a submission to the Courts and MAG regarding the Modernization of Ontario's Civil Justice System. Chapter 4 covers: Best Practices for Remote Examinations for Discovery
Chapter 5 covers: Best Practices for Remote Mediations
You can download the report here.
On May 19, 2021, the Chair of the Expert Evidence Subcommittee of the Civil Rules Committee emailed FOLA requesting input on expert reports in civil matters. Specifically, the Civil Rules Committee asked FOLA to prepare a written response to several questions:
(1) Is late service of expert reports a problematic practice in your experience?
(2) If so, what problems have you experienced?
(3) Is the conscious delay in the delivery of expert reports until after pre-trial conference something your members have seen or done?
(4) Why would parties serve expert reports on the eve of trial and then seek an adjournment?
(5) What suggestions would your organization have to remedy the problem of last-minute pre-trial conference and trial adjournment requests arising from the late service of expert reports?
(6) Should late service of expert reports be permitted on consent of the parties if that results in a wasted pre-trial conference or the adjournment of a fixed trial date?
(7) What factors should judges consider in deciding whether to allow late service of expert reports for pre-trial conferences and trials, and should the factors be different for each?
(8) Should pre-trial judges be empowered to impose immediately payable costs sanctions for a wasted pre-trial conference, and should a judge hearing a leave motion to late file expert evidence be able to do the same?
(9) Should the wording in r. 53.08(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which sets the trial judge’s authority to admit late expert reports, be changed from “leave shall be granted” to “leave may be granted”? Would this assist in addressing the problem?
The Chair was also interested in any views on the particular practices under their scrutiny that these questions do not elicit.
You can view our Submission (dated June 14, 2021) here.
For context or for more information, please see the Chair's letter to FOLA here.
In essence, the May 4, 2021 Notice adjourning all in-person and hybrid (a combination of in-person and virtual) family and CYFSA trials continues until May 21, 2021. Beginning Tuesday, May 25, 2021, all in-person and hybrid family and CYFSA trials may proceed as scheduled.
The OCJ has an update re Criminal Proceedings: reducing out-of-custody trials and preliminary inquiries between April 26 and May 21, 2021 (published April 21, 2021; updated May 4, 2021)
COVID-19: Notice to Counsel/Paralegals and the Public Re: Provincial Offences Act Matters in the OCJ (Revised March 31, 2021)
In light of Ontario’s Emergency Order, the new Scheduling of Family Law Matters directive eliminates the reference to certain appearances being presumptively in person and waives the requirement to file sworn documents, beyond unsworn affidavits of service.
Electronically signed documents are acceptable for filing. There is an additional resource by Pro Bono Students Canada for litigants who are unable to afford a lawyer but do not qualify for LAO services. The new Scheduling directive is effective as of January 14, 2021.
As of Monday November 30, 2020, accused persons are required to attend for their scheduled appearance in criminal case management court – either by having counsel appear on their behalf or by appearing by telephone or video.
Small Claims Court notice updates: As of June 4, 2021, the Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court was updated to:
Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution pilot – new affidavit form: The Court has posted the Affidavit in Support of a Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution hearing form to its website.
The 2nd version of the At-A-Glance Guide to Virtual Hearings is now available on the SCJ website. This document contains a compilation of resources and information about virtual hearings in the SCJ, including a model virtual hearing protocol.
The guide was prepared by members of the SCJ Civil Working Group
On May 12th, Chief Justice Morawetz’s issued a Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding Court Proceedings. It is available here.
On May 17, 2021, a regulation was filed to amend court rules and forms for civil proceedings in the Superior Court of Justice: O. Reg. 343/21, amending the Rules of Civil Procedure.
The regulation amends three rules of the Rules of Civil Procedure to:
Effective April 16, 2021, amendments to the Supplementary Notice to the Profession and Litigants in Civil and Family Matters Regarding the Caselines Pilot, E-Filing, and Fee Payment include a requirement to upload a completed Participant Information form before or during each hearing (replacing the counsel slip).
The SCJ issued a Consolidated Notice to advise that, effective April 12, 2021, the Small Claims Court will no longer be scheduling hearings based on request forms. Hearings will be scheduled as per the requirements of the Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court. The notice is to be updated next week with new scheduling procedures.
On April 9th, the SCJ issued a Supplementary Notice to the Profession and Litigants in Civil and Family Matters Regarding the Caselines Pilot, E-Filing, and Fee Payment. Here’s the link.
Chief Justice Morawetz’s Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding Court Proceedings was updated in light of the stay-at-home order that is in effect until May 6, 2021. The updated notice is available here.
Chief Justice Morawetz’s Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court was updated on March 15.
• there is no more date restriction on settlement conference requests;
• parties may now request any type of motion on notice to other parties; and
• some filing requirements have been clarified.
Chief Justice Morawetz’s Supplementary Notice to the Profession and Litigants in Civil and Family Matters Regarding the Caselines Pilot, E-Filing, and Fee Payment is available here (Feb 24).
On February 11, 2021, regulations were filed to amend the court rules and forms for Small Claims Court proceedings and civil proceedings in the Superior Court of Justice, namely:
The Small Claims Court amendment regulation establishes new electronic processes in Small Claims Court proceedings through amendments to 17 rules and 23 forms and the creation of 2 new rules.
The amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure and related forms allow for email service on the Crown in right of Ontario, the Attorney General, Children’s Lawyer and the Public Guardian and Trustee for originating processes and other documents as an alternative to personal service.
The new rules related to serving the Crown in right of Ontario and related entities are subject to O. Reg. 76/20 (Electronic service) under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, as long as O. Reg. 76/20 remains in effect.
A summary of each regulation is available on Ontario’s Regulatory Registry at:
21-MAG003 (O. Reg. 108-21)
21-MAG002 (O. Reg. 107-21)
The regulations come into force on March 1, 2021.
On January 25, 2021, the Justice Services Online (JSO) platform will be expanded to enable online filing of Small Claims Court (SmCC) documents that cannot currently be filed through Service Ontario’s Small Claims Online platform. Almost 70 additional SmCC documents will be eligible for filing through JSO.
Users can pay court fees online securely by debit or credit card. Users can also use JSO to request a fee waiver certificate or submit documents with an existing fee waiver certificate.
To access Justice Services Online, users are required to sign in to ONe-key and create a JSO account. ONe-key is a unique electronic credential that allows you to communicate securely with online government services.. Click here to learn more.
The ministry will enhance the service based on user feedback. If you have any questions or would like to provide feedback about the service, please contact Peter O’Keefe (Peter.OKeefe@ontario.ca), Director, Project Implementation Branch, Ministry of the Attorney General.
The Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court has been amended to: include the document naming protocol that took effect for SCJ and Small Claims Court matters on January 11, 2021; provide that the Court will, as of January 18, 2021, accept all requests to clerk for assessment hearings; and consolidate the two types of settlement conferences (on consent of all parties, and on one party’s request) into one (Jan 15)
Gowning for counsel and attire modifications – Effective January 18, 2021, amendments the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction specify in paragraph 59 the court attendances (in person) at which counsel are not required to gown. Paragraphs 60 and 61 specify that counsel may modify their traditional court attire in order to accommodate personal circumstances. These amendments relate to in person hearings only. For virtual hearings, the Chief’s COVID-19 notice provides as follows: PROCEDURES GOVERNING ALL SCJ PROCEEDINGS DURING SUSPENSION OF IN-COURT OPERATIONS (Section C #2) Gowning: The requirement to gown for an appearance in the SCJ is suspended. Counsel, parties and others participating in video hearings are expected to dress in appropriate business attire. Judges will similarly dress in business attire. (Jan 11)
Class actions – Effective January 18, 2021, amendments the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction specify in paragraph 43 that costs outlines must be filed in certification and other motions. Amendments to paragraph 44 create a new Class Proceedings Judge’s Book of Authorities with links to the CanLii website. Counsel need not include in their filed books of authorities any of the cases contained in the Class Proceedings Judges’ Book of Authorities. However, extracts from those authorities which counsel intend to refer should be included in the filed book of authorities. (Jan 11)
Best Practices Guide for Class Proceedings - The Class Actions Bench and Bar Liaison Committee drafted a Best Practices Guide to assist both counsel and judges by providing suggested topics and processes to be considered in connection with the case management of class actions. (Jan 11)
Toronto Commercial List and Estates List Filing Direction – Amendments to the Toronto Commercial List and Estates List Filing Direction clarify requirements for filing documents with the court and uploading them to a document sharing platform in advance of hearings. (Jan 11)
CaseLines FAQ - The CaseLines FAQs have been updated. FAQ 7 sets out the court’s new document naming protocol. FAQ 8 indicates that tabs and bookmarks are now functional in CaseLines. (Jan 11)
Small Claims Court adjournment order – An order of Chief Justice Morawetz further adjourning certain Small Claims Court proceedings to March 1, 2021 is now on the SCJ website. (Jan 11)
The Small Claims Court notice now provides a document naming protocol. It is in the Email Filing section of the public notice. (Jan 11)
DOCUMENT NAMING PROTOCOL
Effective January 11, 2021, amendments to Part C (section 8) of the Consolidated Notice to the Profession, Litigants, Accused Persons, Public and the Media set out a standard document naming protocol for all documents submitted to the court in electronic format.
Chief Justice Morawetz has extended the suspension of jury trials until at least January 29, 2021 in all areas of the province except Green Zones. Jury trials will recommence on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 at the earliest. See notice.
Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding Court Proceedings (Nov 21)
In view of the public health situation, effective Monday, November 23, 2020, the Court will not commence any new jury selection in any court location except in those in a Green Zone as defined by the Ontario Government as of the date of this notice https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.
This will remain in effect until at least January 4, 2021. An update will be issued on December 29, 2020.
Recording of the November 18, 2020 CaseLines Information Session (1 hour): https://vimeo.com/480936668
Effective November 30, the Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding the Small Claims Court has been amended. The Court will now accept requests for:
Request forms have also been updated and can be found in the same places as the old forms (linked in the relevant section of the notice). For example, the part about motions to set aside defaults reads:
The Court is accepting requests to hear motions to set aside a noting in default or default judgment. To make that request, please submit the request form to the following email address: email@example.com. Your email must comply with the requirements in the Email Filing section below. The updated form can be accessed by clicking on “request form”.
Small Claims Court Notice RE: Expansion of Operations (Oct 28). The Small Claims Court public notice now provides that the Court will accept requests for the following matters:
1. motions to set aside a noting in default and/or default judgment;
2. requests to clerk for an assessment hearing, if initially filed before March 16, 2020; and
3. motions in writing, if initially filed before March 16, 2020.
The updated notice also provides new information about email filing.
The Small Claims Court has updated its Consolidated Notice to the Profession and Public
1. The Court is lifting the date range limiting the previously scheduled settlement conferences it will hear remotely at the request of one party.
2. There is now information about the re-opening of Small Claims Court counter service.
SCJ Consolidated Notice to the Profession, Litigants, Accused Persons, Public and the Media provides for an electronic process to apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (Oct 6)
Notice to Profession for Appeals from the Landlord and Tenant Board in the Divisional Court (Effective August 24, 2020)
Notice Regarding the Suspension of Small Claims Court Operations (August 26, 2020)
Notice to the Profession – Divisional Court (June 29, 2020)
Notice Re Urgent Matters Emailed to Trial Co-Ordinators (March 24, 2020)
NOTICES NO LONGER IN EFFECT Chief Justice Morawetz has extended the suspension of jury trials until at least January 29, 2021 in all areas of the province except Green Zones. Jury trials will recommence on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 at the earliest.
PRACTICE DIRECTIONS & NOTICES REGARDING COVID-19
Consolidated Practice Direction Regarding Proceedings in the Court of Appeal During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On March 15, 2021, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released a new practice direction that will come into force on March 29, 2021. It will be called the Consolidated Practice Direction Regarding Proceedings in the Court of Appeal During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The practice direction explains that, unless there is a legal provision or a court order that requires a hearing to be held in camera, members of the public and the media may observe hearings remotely by connecting to the hearing by Zoom or by telephone. The practice direction also explains that those who wish to observe a hearing, so long as it is not in camera, may obtain the Zoom connection information from the parties or their counsel or from the Office of the Registrar. Finally, the practice direction explains that the Court of Appeal has revised and renamed its counsel slip. It is now called “Counsel Slip and Hearing Information Form”.
This new form asks questions about privacy and publication concerns. It will be required in single judge motions filed on or after Feb. 1, 2021. It will be required in panel motions and appeals heard on or after Feb. 8, 2021.
NOTE: All limitation and procedural time periods that were previously suspended pursuant to O. Reg. 73/20 have resumed. For further information, please see the government's news release and O. Reg. 457/20. Procedural time periods that were previously suspended in the Court of Appeal already resumed running on Thursday, July 16, 2020. For information on the resumption of time periods at the Court of Appeal, please see the Practice Directions and Notices regarding COVID-19.
Notice Regarding Videconference Appearance Technology (Zoom) (July 6, 2020)
Amended Practice Direction Concerning Manner of Service, Inmate Appeal Books, and Orders for Release of Electronic Exhibits in Criminal Matters Given the Exceptional and Evolving Circumstances Concerning COVID-19 (PDF) (June 25, 2020)
Notice of Public Counter Services (March 23, 2020)
Jury selection and trials are scheduled in Brampton, Toronto and Hamilton. In Brampton, the Pearson Convention Centre, and in Toronto, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, are being prepared to support jury selection. In Hamilton, selection will occur on-site at the Hamilton courthouse. Trials at all three locations will be held on-site at each courthouse.
To best ensure the health and safety of all participants (individuals summoned to a jury panel, jurors, the judiciary, parties to the proceeding, and court staff and management, the Recovery Secretariat has developed the attached jury recovery guidance materials.
To request French translated versions, please get in touch at MAGRecoverySecretariat@ontario.ca
Visit the Federal Court website for access to all forms, e-Filing needs, "how to" docs & videos, Court files, and decisions.
In July 2020, in the midst of COVID-19, the Federal Court released their Strategic Plan for 2020-2025.
The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan addresses the steps that the Court intends to take in the pursuit of two principal objectives: (i) significantly increasing access to justice, and (ii) enhancing the ability of the Court to serve the public across Canada.
The primary focus of the first principal objective will be upon accelerating the Court’s shift away from being a paper-based organization, towards being a more accessible digital court. That shift was given added stimulus in the wake of the outbreak of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, when the Court rapidly expanded its capability to conduct virtual hearings with participants situated in their respective homes, by telephone and video conference.
As the Court continues to expand its digital capabilities, its principal areas of focus will include:
· making more broad-based use of e-filing and electronic service;
· moving toward treating electronically filed materials as the official court record;
· making more widespread use of electronic courtroom software, during in-person and “virtual” hearings;
· enhancing its internal and outward-facing electronic scheduling capabilities;
· providing the parties to disputes before the Court with an ability to electronically access non-restricted documents in the Court’s record;
· providing the public and the media with electronic access to non-confidential Court records, as well as to the non-confidential portion of electronic hearings; and
· making increased use of web-based virtual hearings and webcasting.
This strategic plan builds on the Court’s 2014-2019 Strategic Plan.
In brief, the Court and many others within its ecosystem need to expand their digital capabilities.
A video tour by the Ontario Government showing lawyers and clients what to expect as they re-enter Courthouses and Courtrooms.