Following the March 2020 suspension of all in-person operations at the Ontario Superior Court in March 2020 there have been many changes, and associated challenges, in the way that the legal system has operated over the last few months. However, as the Province of Ontario is slowly beginning to reopen, the Government is also working towards resuming in-person court operations.
A recent ‘Notice to the Profession and Public’, delivered by Regional Senior Justice Geoffrey Morawetz on June 25, 2020, indicates that there will be a phased return to in-person court hearings commencing July 6, 2020. In this phased return, 56 Superior Court of Justice courtrooms across the Province are set to reopen with new health and safety precautions being implemented for the protection of all court users, including judicial officers, lawyers, litigants, staff and members of the public. During the initial opening, trials and other hearings that are urgent or which were scheduled to be heard during the suspension of the courts’ regular operations will be given priority. Jury matters will continue to be deferred until at least September 2020. Each courthouse will also for safety purposes have a restriction on the number of people who may be in the courthouse and litigants and members of the public are only to bring family members or similar supports with them to the court (and only if absolutely necessary). In addition to the in-person hearings that may commence after on or after July 6, 2020, the Superior Court of Justice will continue to hear some matters virtually.
According to the most recent information from the Regional Senior Justice, the Hamilton court, located at 45 Main St. E., is on the list for phase 1 reopening, which means that at least one Courtroom (Courtroom 600) is expected to open on July 6, 2020.
Despite this, as of the date of this posting, we understand that at least one large legal entity has filed an application with the court for an injunction (and written to the Minister of the Attorney General) in an attempt to delay the re-opening until all health and safety concerns have been addressed. More specifically, there is concern about the use of masks and other mandatory PPE, the institution and enforcement of screening measures upon court entry and the enhanced use of plexiglass and other protective barriers in the courtrooms and common areas. At this time we are unaware of any response from the Minister of the Attorney General, Doug Downey.
Written by Kimberly Jossul