Protocol for In-Person Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic
October 20, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic in-person hearings will be held at the discretion of the Court. The Court will only consider holding an in-person hearing if:
- All parties and counsel have consented to attend in person; and
- The hearing has been scheduled by the Court for one full day or longer. Depending on the Court’s resources, the Court may schedule some half-day appeals for in-person hearings.
The following procedures will apply to approved in-person hearings:
- Public health or other considerations may make it necessary to convert an in-person proceeding to an online proceeding. Parties should be prepared to argue the appeal online if necessary and should expect the proceeding to proceed online on the same day and time as it had been scheduled to proceed as an in-person proceeding.
- Until further notice, gowning is not required.
- All materials for the appeal must be filed electronically.
- Printed materials should not be presented to the panel during the hearing. If a party wishes to file paper copies of a compendium, the party must file the paper copies by Wednesday of the week prior to the hearing. They must also file an electronic copy of the compendium.
- Currently, most in-person appeals are being scheduled in courtroom 7. There are a few steps at the entrance of courtroom 7 and it is not wheelchair accessible. Where this will create accessibility issues, courtroom 8 will be used. If there is a need to have the proceeding in courtroom 8, the court should be notified of this in advance of the hearing date.
- In-person attendance will be limited to the parties’ legal representatives. Access for members of the public will be provided by remote video, subject to any privacy restrictions identified by the Court.
- Counsel slips, sent in advance to parties by the Appeal Scheduling Unit, must be filed with the Intake Office and must include the name, email address and phone number of all legal representatives who will be attending the proceeding. People not identified on the counsel slip are not permitted in the courtroom.
- Health and safety requirements only permit four counsel to sit at the counsel table (two counsel for each party in a two-party proceeding). Any additional legal representatives must sit in the body of the courtroom unless and until they are required to make submissions. Due to distancing requirements, space for additional legal representatives is limited to a total of seven people in courtroom 7 and four people in courtroom 8.
- Persons entering Osgoode Hall will be asked to complete the standard Ontario COVID-19 screening process that is being used at all Ontario courthouses. Everyone entering Osgoode Hall will be required to wear a mask unless they have a medical reason for not wearing a mask or fall into one of the other categories that exempt people from the requirement to wear a mask in an Ontario courthouse. Persons addressing the Court may remove their mask when making submissions.
- There are hand sanitizing stations throughout Osgoode Hall. This includes hand sanitizing stations outside the door of every courtroom. Hearing participants must sanitize their hands before entering a courtroom.
- Persons attending the hearing must not arrive at Osgoode Hall more than thirty minutes prior to the scheduled start of the hearing. They are required to go directly to the assigned courtroom and remain in their designated space in the courtroom unless exiting the courtroom.
- All persons in the courtroom are encouraged to remain at their designated seats in the courtroom during recesses except for the purpose of using washrooms or at the lunch break.
- All persons must maintain a 2-metre distance from one another, unless separated by a plexiglass barrier. Persons entering or leaving their seats must do so in an organized fashion that allows the 2-metre distance to be maintained.
- Attendees may converse with each other if the 2-metre distance requirement is respected. Confidential conversations among legal representatives should be conducted by email or text message. Wi-Fi is available in Osgoode Hall.
- Water will not be provided in the courtrooms. Attendees may bring their own water bottles if they wish. (Note: public drinking water is not available in Osgoode Hall.)
- At the close of the hearing, a court staff member will invite attendees to exit the courtroom in a manner that respects physical distancing.
- Nothing can be left in the courtroom overnight. Attendees must ensure that they take all their belongings when leaving the courtroom because there will be no ability to recover lost items left behind.
- There is no access between the Osgoode Hall Courthouse and 361 University or the Law Society of Ontario. The Osgoode Hall Dining Room, the 361 University Cafeteria, the Great Hall Library, and the robing room at the Law Society are all closed.
- Washrooms and elevators are limited to one person at a time.