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Public and Media Access to Court Proceedings

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Guide for General Public and Media on How to Access Ontario Court of Justice Proceedings during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Revised March 15, 2021)

This notice addresses access to remote proceedings as well as access to courthouses while COVID-19 health and safety related in-person restrictions remain in effect. Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Court of Justice and courts across the country have taken measures to ensure that members of the public and the media continue to have access to court proceedings and, where possible, court filings, exhibits and audio recordings of court proceedings.

The Ontario Court of Justice recognizes that it is important to uphold the open court principle by ensuring that members of the public can appropriately access, and media representatives can cover, court proceedings.

These measures will remain in place until further notice.

Access to Court Proceedings

In-person attendance at courthouses continues to be restricted. Physical distancing and other health and safety measures have been established in each courtroom and throughout courthouses. More information about the precautionary health and safety measures at courthouses implemented by the Ministry is available on the following website:  COVID-19: Reopening courtrooms.

Many cases are proceeding remotely by telephone and/or videoconference either entirely, or in part.

Members of the public and media representatives are strongly encouraged to review the details about the scheduling of proceedings in the Ontario Court of Justice, including Provincial Offences Act matters, here.

The public and the media are welcome to attend court proceedings, but are advised that some limits may apply because of court orders, legislative provisions and technological limitations.

Members of the public and media representatives should take note of the following:

  • Attendance and conditions of attendance remain subject to any judicial direction or order.
  • Public health requirements may limit the number of people who can enter and the conditions of attendance at courthouses.
  • Remote access to court proceedings will presumptively be available by audio without judicial authorization. In some cases videoconference access will be available. .
  • Some proceedings are closed to the public by legislation or court order.
  • The proceedings may be subject to one or more publication bans. It is the responsibility of members of the public and media representatives who attend court proceedings to inform themselves of the existence of any publication bans and to ensure compliance with them. Breaching of a publication ban can result in a criminal charge.
  • It is an offence under section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act, and may constitute contempt of court, to record, photograph, publish or broadcast a court proceeding in any way, unless prior judicial authorization has been granted. Audio recording of proceedings is permitted by counsel, paralegals licensed by the Law Society of Ontario, court staff, members of the media, and litigants provided it is done solely for note-taking purposes and the presiding judicial officer has been advised before the recording commences. Audio recording of proceedings is also permitted by members of the public provided it is done solely for note-taking purposes and the express permission of the presiding judicial officer is first obtained. These audio recordings cannot be transmitted. The Court’s Protocol Regarding the Use of Electronic Communication Devices in Court Proceedings remains in effect.
  • Please be prepared to join the remote court hearing at least 15 minutes before the scheduled appearance time in order to allow yourself time to address any technical problems and to minimize disruption.
  • To minimize disruptions and to improve connection speed if you are joining a hearing by a smartphone or computer device, close unnecessary apps and windows on your device, especially video streaming. Turn off other devices in your vicinity and turn off notifications and alarms on the device you are using for the remote hearing. Unless directed by a judicial officer, please remain silent (Kkeep your microphone on mute) and hidden (with your camera turned off) during the proceedings.

To request information for remote hearing access, please contact the relevant courthouse, preferably by email, using the subject line, “Hearing Access Request” and identifying the case you want to attend. Include your name in the request.   Email contact information for Ontario provincial courthouses is available here and phone numbers are available here. Contact information for Municipal Provincial Offences court locations are also available here.

If you intend to audio record the proceedings for note-taking purposes, you must include this request in your email.

Access to Court Dockets

The Daily Court Lists online service  provides information about upcoming appearances in the Ontario Court of Justice.

Please contact local court staff for information about a matter you believe is ongoing that is not shown on the website. Contact information for Ontario courthouses, including email addresses, is available here.  The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides contact and related information about local courthouses here. Contact information for Municipal Provincial Offences court locations are also available here.

Media representatives who wish to inquire about the status of a specific proceeding may contact MAG-Media@ontario.ca.

Please review the Court’s scheduling directives, which provide important updated information about which and how various different matters are proceeding.

Access to Court Filings and Exhibits

By reason of public health concerns, in-person attendance at the court house is not encouraged. To request access to court filings and exhibits, please contact the relevant courthouse, preferably by email, using the subject line, “Court Filings/ Exhibits Access Request”. Contact information for Ontario courthouses, including email addresses, is available here.  The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides contact and related information about local courthouses here. Contact information for Municipal Provincial Offences court locations are also available here.

Existing access policies remain in effect.

Access to Audio Recordings of Court Proceedings

By reason of public health concerns, in-person attendance at the court house is not encouraged. To request access to audio recordings of court proceedings, please contact the relevant courthouse, preferably by email, using the subject line, “Audio Recording of Proceeding Access Request”. Contact information for Ontario courthouses, including email addresses, is available here. The Ministry of the Attorney General also provides contact and related information about local courthouses here. Contact information for Municipal Provincial Offences court locations are also available here.

The existing Policy Regarding Access to Digital Audio Recordings remains in effect.