On June 25, 2020, Chief Justice Morawetz issued a Notice to the Profession, Litigants, Accused, Media and Members of the Public providing guidance on the resumption of in-court operations.
Further to the Notice issued May 13, 2020, Chief Justice Morawetz confirmed that in-person hearings will begin to resume commencing July 6, 2020. Only certain court sites and courtrooms will re-open, and re-opening will subject to facilities being outfitted with various protective measures, such as plexiglass, personal protective equipment (PPE), and screening requirements. The Notice advises litigants and lawyers to arrive 30 minutes early due to screening measures. The Chief Justice provides a list of the courtrooms available to reopen, including Courtroom D of the Kingston Superior Court of Justice, at Annex A to the Notice.
Gowning requirements remain suspended due to limited courthouse robing rooms. Counsel may instead wear business attire.
Notwithstanding the phased reopening, jury matters are still deferred until at least September 2020. Criminal matters previously adjourned to July 6, 7, 8 are respectively adjourned to September 15, 16 and 17 and matters scheduled in June, July and August of 2020 are adjourned to September 18, 2020.
The Chief Justice advises that urgent trials and hearings that were scheduled during the suspension will take priority. Although not specified in the Notice, it is likely that matters of particular significance to the rights of litigants, including criminal and family proceedings, will be scheduled to take place in-person before civil proceedings.
Although the recent Notice offers a glimpse of a return to normalcy, civil proceedings will likely continue to proceed virtually for some time. Accordingly, the need for civil litigators to develop proficiencies with various technologies has become increasingly important. The landscape of civil litigation has changed considerably, and adaptability is now, more than ever, a key component to effective advocacy.