03 Apr E-Hearings Task Force
Written By: Gabriel Lessard, Lawyer
Cooperation and Innovation
Ontario’s judicial system relies heavily on face-to-face contact, particularly in the areas of civil litigation and criminal law. If one were to walk into any courthouse on a normal day, they would see the halls and courtrooms packed with court staff, lawyers, process servers and self-represented individuals. Therefore, it came as no surprise that in response to COVID-19 and the requirement of social distancing, Ontario’s courts have essentially closed to all non-urgent matters.
Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers has spent the past decade embracing technological advancements and modernizing the way we conduct business. However, while our lawyers and staff were in a position to transition to home offices seamlessly and carry on business as usual, it became apparent that our judicial system has lagged behind. While court staff and judges are doing their best to respond to our new circumstances so that, at the very least, crucial motions and applications can be heard, they have limited resources and technological tools at their disposal to do so. The current crisis has certainly highlighted some shortcomings in our legal system as there is no uniform system for electronic document filing or electronic hearings, either by telephone or video conference. However, this crisis does present an opportunity to modernize our judicial system to help weather this storm, and to reduce the impact of any future crises.
At the request of the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Chief Justice of Ontario, The Advocates Society has created an E-Hearings Task Force. The purpose is to identify issues and rapidly adapt our system to increase the court’s functioning during the current crisis (and beyond) through cooperation and innovation. The Task Force consists primarily of litigators from the plaintiff and defence bar who represent several legal associations, as well as members of the judiciary. Charles Gluckstein has joined the Task Force as the representative from the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
The first meeting, which was held over teleconference on March 25, 2020, identified three priorities which include creating and implementing systems to deal with electronic court filing, electronic scheduling and electronic hearings. In the coming days, members will explore potential solutions that will help adapt the court to be able to receive electronic documents, such as motion records or applications, and have other hearings conducted over the telephone or video, while addressing issues of privacy and security.
While the current crisis has certainly exposed some vulnerabilities in our legal system, it is encouraging to see the effort being put forth by the courts, lawyers and other interested parties who are working together to identify issues, problem-solve and find solutions that will not only improve our courts’ functioning during the current crisis, but will ultimately lead to a more efficient and robust judicial system in Ontario.
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As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we continue to provide full-circle care to our clients. At Gluckstein Lawyers we remain committed to offering you any help we can to make both the legal process and these challenging times a little easier. We want to become an important part of your community and network of support.