Criminal Case Management Appearances
Published August 20, 2020. Last updated May 8, 2023.
1. Virtual and In-Person Criminal Case Management Court Appearances
Case management appearances include a “first appearance” and matters scheduled “to be spoken to” or to “set a date”. They do not include bail proceedings, trials, preliminary hearings, guilty pleas or sentencings.
Unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer, accused persons and counsel have the option of appearing in criminal case management court virtually (using Zoom) or in person.
Note: Nothing in this notice affects the authority of a judicial officer to direct that an accused person or counsel appear in court using a particular mode of appearance. In adjourning any matter, a judicial officer may direct that the accused or counsel attend the next court date in person to ensure a meaningful appearance to move their matter forward.
- Satellite Courts
Some satellite courts lack the technology to be able to accommodate virtual appearances. As a result, accused persons may be required to attend in person for certain case management appearances, including first appearances, at these court locations. Details for each location are available in the Courthouse location and information search tool on the Ontario Court of Justice website.
- Judge-led Intensive Case Management Courts
Appearances in Judge-led Intensive Case Management Courts are governed by a separate practice direction: see Practice Direction: Judge-led Intensive Case Management Courts.
- Specialized Courts
Specialized courts include Drug Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, Indigenous Person’s / Gladue Court, Community Support Court, and the Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer, accused persons and counsel have the option of appearing in specialized courts virtually or in person, as set out in part 2 of this notice. However, given the unique nature of specialized courts, including the presence of in-person services and supports, accused persons and their counsel are strongly encouraged to attend in person, and may be directed by a judicial officer to attend in person.
- Accused persons who are in custody
Criminal case management appearances for accused persons who are in custody may be conducted by virtual appearance (audioconference or videoconference) or in person, as directed by a judicial officer.
The Court has issued a Practice Direction that permits accused persons who are in custody to waive their right to appear personally before the Court and to request to have their case adjourned in their absence, by instructing defence counsel to complete and file a waiver form on their behalf. See: Practice Direction: Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody.
2. Virtual Appearances Using Zoom
Virtual case management appearances will be conducted using Zoom. Zoom allows participants to join by videoconference or audioconference (telephone).
A Zoom account is not required to participate in Zoom hearings. You can download Zoom at https://zoom.us/ free of charge. User tutorials for Zoom are available at: https://learn-zoom.us/show-me.
- Virtual appearances by Accused Persons
Unless otherwise ordered by a judicial officer, accused persons may attend case management court appearances either in person or using Zoom.
Accused persons who attend using Zoom are encouraged to appear by videoconference wherever possible, however, they may attend by audioconference (telephone), unless a judicial officer orders otherwise.
If you do not have access to a personal telephone or a computer, you can attend court in person. You can also use a payphone to call Zoom’s toll-free number (1-855 703 8985) to join the court proceeding by telephone for free.
- Appearances by Counsel
Unless otherwise directed by a judicial officer, counsel may attend case management court appearances in person or using Zoom.
Counsel who attend using Zoom are expected to attend by videoconference. Counsel who cannot attend by videoconference may attend by audioconference (telephone) with permission of a judicial officer.
Because of the nature of remote appearances and because of the high volume of matters in case management courts, there will be limited opportunity for private discussion between and among participants during a virtual case management court appearance. It is therefore essential that Crown and defence counsel speak with their client (where applicable), and with one another, in advance of any case management appearance.
3. Connection and Scheduling Information
- Connection Information
Each case management court has its own unique video link and its own unique telephone meeting number / passcode combination that is needed to connect to the court.
Connection information about how an accused person can attend their first appearance in case management virtually is set out in their release document, i.e. summons, appearance notice, undertaking or release order (bail). This information is also available in the Courthouse location and information search tool.
- Daily Schedule / Tiers
To facilitate more orderly proceedings and to limit the number of people waiting to have their matters addressed, many case management court lists have been subdivided into tiers, based on factors such as the type of appearance, the type of proceeding and whether or not an accused person is represented by counsel.
Information about the daily schedule or tiers for a particular case management court is set out in the Courthouse location and information search tool. Counsel and accused persons should appear at the time specified , unless a judicial officer has directed them to appear at a different time.
4. Contacting Legal Aid Ontario
Self-represented accused persons are strongly encouraged to contact Legal Aid Ontario before the day of their criminal case management appearance.
If you want to apply for legal aid or if you would like general legal advice, call the central Legal Aid Ontario number at 1-800-668-8258. If you are eligible, Duty Counsel at your court location may be able provide you with legal advice and assistance for your court appearance. Because local Duty Counsel cannot guarantee same day assistance, it is strongly recommended that you contact Legal Aid Ontario and/or Duty Counsel well in advance of your court date. Contact information for local Duty Counsel offices is available in the Courthouse location and information search tool.
5. Enhanced Designations of Counsel
Accused persons who are represented by counsel and who have filed an Enhanced Designation of Counsel may have their matters adjourned, without the accused personally appearing, in accordance with the procedure set out in the Practice Direction – Enhanced Designations of Counsel.
6. Additional Resources
The Court has published resources to assist participants and help ensure that remote hearings, including virtual case management court appearances, run effectively.
For a review of best practices for remote hearings, see Ontario Court of Justice Remote Appearance Code of Conduct.
For technical information about participating in a Zoom hearing, please see the ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice.
Not sure about your next court date in a criminal case?
The “Court Case Search Tool“, available through Justice Services Online, allows users (anyone with a Service Ontario ONe-key account) to search for OCJ adult criminal court case information, including future court dates and appearance type, by entering an accused person’s name or the Information number.
To see a list of cases scheduled for today or tomorrow at a particular courthouse, go to the Daily Court Lists website.
If you are unsure about the date of your next court appearance, whether you are required to attend court on that date, or whether you should be attending in person or virtually (videoconference or audioconference), please contact your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, please contact the courthouse and ask for assistance.
* Note re previous versions. This practice direction was originally issued on August 20, 2020 entitled, “Scheduling and Conducting of Virtual Criminal Case Management Appearances”. Previous versions of the practice direction are available on the Archives page of the Ontario Court of Justice website.
- Courthouse location and information search tool
- Practice Direction re: Waiver of Personal Attendance and Request for Adjournment / Remand by Accused Persons in Custody
- Enhanced Designations of Counsel Practice Direction
- Practice Direction: Judge-led Intensive Case Management Courts
- ZOOM User Guide for Remote Hearings in the Ontario Court of Justice
- Daily Court Lists website
- Court Case Search Tool