The E-Hearings Task Force, convened at the request of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and consisting of representatives of The Advocates' Society,1 the Ontario Bar Association, the Federation of Ontario Law Associations, and the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, has now released its Best Practices for Remote Hearings.2 The guide is accompanied by a separate Overview3 highlighting key recommendations, as well as various checklists to assist counsel in preparing for remote hearings.4
The Best Practices covers the technical, ethical, evidentiary, and procedural issues involved in presenting evidence and argument virtually. Appendices provide detailed recommendations for hardware and software for smoother and more effective presentation of evidence and argument, and set out resources for self-represented litigants. The body of the document provides practical guidance to assist counsel in preparing for and conducting virtual hearings, with recommendations on document preparation, hearing logistics, and preparing and communicating with clients.
Chief Justice Morawetz noted in his April 6, 2020 Fireside Chat for The Advocates' Society5 that "we cannot go back" to a paper-based filing system, and that, post-COVID-19 lockdown, we will not be reverting to in-person attendances for all aspects of civil files. As he observed, "the challenges are there, but there's also some great opportunities" in the embrace of technology in the Court's practice. It is hoped that the E-Hearings Task Force's work will ease this profound transition.
1 The author was a member of the Task Force, representing The Advocates' Society.
2 Best Practices for Remote Hearings, online: https://www.advocates.ca/Upload/Files/PDF/Advocacy/BestPracticesPublications/BestPracticesRemoteHearings/
3 Overview of the Best Practices for Remote
Hearings, online: https://www.advocates.ca/Upload/Files/PDF/Advocacy/BestPracticesPublications/BestPracticesRemoteHearings/
4 The Checklist: Preparing Your System for a Remote Hearing, Checklist: Counsel Preparation in Advance of Meeting with Adjudicator, and Checklist: Matters to Consider Reviewing with Judge in Advance of Hearing form Appendix D of the Best Practices, but are also available for download in Word from The Advocates' Society's Best Practice Publications site: https://www.advocates.ca/TAS/Publications/Best_Practices_Publications/TAS/Publications_Resources/Best_Practices_Publications.aspx?hkey=12ee9725-d4e8-408d-93bc-462a365c7d82.
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