Notice Regarding Public and Media Access to Ontario Court of Justice Proceedings during the COVID-19 Pandemic (Revised July 4, 2020)
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario Court of Justice has introduced new measures to ensure that members of the public and the media continue to have appropriate access to court proceedings and, where possible, court filings, exhibits and audio recordings of court proceedings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation. To help reduce the spread of the virus, courts across the country have restricted in-person public access to courthouses. Proceedings that involve remote appearances have increased. 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 significantly restricted. Physical distancing and other health measures will be strictly enforced in each courtroom and throughout the courthouse. 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 will proceed 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.
- Where courthouses are open to the public, public health requirements may limit the number of people who can enter and the conditions of attendance.
- Remote access to court proceedings will presumptively be by audio only.
- 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.
- Section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act makes it an offence to take a photograph, or make a video or audio recording, of a court proceeding, 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.
- You must be connected to the hearing not later than 5 minutes prior to the commencement of the proceeding in order to minimize disruption. You must keep your phone or other device on mute during the proceedings.
- Call-in information for a proceeding is to be used only for the purpose of access to the requested proceeding.
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 courthouses is available here and phone numbers are 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
As a result of recent changes to regular court operations in the Ontario Court of Justice, the Daily Court Lists online service is limited.
Please contact local court staff for information about a matter you believe is ongoing that is not shown on the website. Email contact information for Ontario courthouses is available here and phone numbers are 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 information about those matters which are proceeding or subject to adjournments.
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”. Email contact information for Ontario courthouses is available here and phone numbers are 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”. Email contact information for Ontario courthouses is available here and phone numbers are available here.
The existing Policy Regarding Access to Digital Audio Recordings remains in effect.