In March the Superior Court of Justice issued guidelines to lawyers regarding the return to in-person hearings for court proceedings.
The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) has since given its approval of these guidelines. In a recent submission, OBA said it will continue to support the Supreme Court of Justice for its work in ironing out the details of conduct of remote hearings.
Remote hearings can promote efficiency, says the OBA. “Scheduling courts, brief chambers appointments, and brief motions in courtrooms hearing multiple matters on the same day are clear examples of these efficiencies.”
Witness credibility and due process concerns regarding online hearings are presently unfounded and no evidence exists to suggest any of these issues are as a result of online hearings.
The OBA has its own list of areas that it thinks lawyers should continue with remote work, these include:
-Motions not requiring witness attendance and comprised solely of argument by legal counsel
-Procedure of courts such as chamber appointments, scheduled appearances.
Like a lot of government or quasi government meetings, there is talk of establishing “hybrid” hearings when it makes sense to do so: to save time on travel, to cut cost, and to alleviate any inconvenience associated with attendance.
Witnesses should be allowed to remotely present themselves to the court in certain situations such as age or health related reasons.
“We believe that these recommendations will help improve the use of remote hearings, create a foundational basis for post-pandemic processes that will be cost-effective, improve efficiency for the courts, and make the best use of available judicial resources” writes OBA.