Public Access to Court Proceedings
Access to Court Proceedings
While many proceedings are conducted in-person within the courthouses, several proceedings are being conducted by remote access (video and telephone). The Daily Court Lists provides information about case names, time, room number and reason for court appearances at the courthouse.
The public may attend court proceedings but are advised that some limits may apply because of court orders, legislative provisions and technological limitations.
Members of public who wish to hear or observe a hearing should contact the courthouse before the hearing to determine if the hearing is being held remotely or in person. Contact information for Ontario Court of Justice courthouses can be found here: Court Locations - Ontario Court of Justice.
Members of the public are strongly encouraged to review the details about the scheduling of proceedings in the Ontario Court of Justice, including Provincial Offences Act matters, here: Criminal Proceedings; Family Matters; Provincial Offences Act Matters
Members of the public should take note of the following:
- Attendance and conditions of attendance remain subject to any judicial direction or order.
- 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 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.
- Counsel, paralegals licensed by the Law Society of Ontario, court staff, members of the media, and litigants may be permitted to audio record a proceeding provided it is done solely for note-taking purposes and only if the presiding judicial officer is advised before the recording commences. Other members of the public may also be permitted to audio record a proceeding but only with the express permission of the presiding judicial official and if solely for note-taking purposes. These audio recordings cannot be transmitted or shared. Please see the Court’s Protocol Regarding the Use of Electronic Communications Devices in Court Proceedings.
- If you are attending a court proceeding remotely, you should be ready to connect to a hearing approximately 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the proceeding 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, and additional information, including telephone numbers, is available using the Courthouse location and information search tool.
Protocol Regarding the Use of Electronic Communication Devices in Court Proceedings
The Protocol Regarding the Use of Electronic Communication Devices in Court Proceedings is based on the “open courts” principle, which requires transparency and accountability in the judicial system to foster public confidence in the administration of justice. This Protocol applies to all court users and the media.
This Protocol applies to all persons attending or participating in a location where public court proceedings in the Ontario Court of Justice before a Judge or Justice of the Peace are being conducted or transmitted, except as noted below. The use of electronic communication devices should never interfere with court proceedings or the ability to have a fair trial.
Note: This Protocol does not apply to persons who require electronic communication devices (or services requiring the use of electronic communication devices) to accommodate a disability.
“Electronic communication devices” include all computers, personal electronic and digital devices, and mobile, cellular and smart phones.
“Judicial Officer” means a Judge or Justice of the Peace of the Ontario Court of Justice.
(3) Use of Electronic Communication Devices in Court Proceedings
The use of electronic communication devices in silent or vibrate mode is permitted, except as follows:
- The presiding judicial officer orders otherwise.
- Legislation (e.g., the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017) or a court order restricts public attendance.
- No photos or videos may be taken unless there is a court order pursuant to section 136 of the Courts of Justice Act.
- Audio recording of proceedings is permitted by counsel, paralegals licensed by the Law Society of Ontario, court staff, members of the media, and litigants for note-taking purposes only. The presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace must be advised before the recording is commenced.
- Members of the public are also permitted to make audio recordings for note-taking purposes only if the presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace gives express permission. This permission must be obtained prior to making the audio recording. These audio recordings cannot be transmitted.
- Talking on electronic communication devices is not permitted while court is in session.
(4) Publication Bans and Other Restrictions
Anyone using an electronic communication device to transmit information has the responsibility to identify and comply with any publication bans, sealing orders, or other restrictions imposed by legislation or by court order.
(5) Judicial Orders
The presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace has overriding responsibility to maintain courtroom decorum and to ensure that court proceedings are conducted in a manner consistent with the proper administration of justice.
In deciding whether to restrict the use of electronic communication devices, the presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace may consider whether there is evidence regarding factors, such as whether the use of electronic communication devices would:
- disrupt the court proceedings;
- interfere with the proper functioning of the court electronic equipment;
- interfere with witness testimony; or
- unreasonably infringe anyone’s privacy or security.
(6) Enforcement of the Use of Electronic Communication Devices
Anyone who uses an electronic communication device in a manner that the presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace determines to be unacceptable may be ordered to:
- turn off the device;
- leave the device outside the courtroom;
- leave the courtroom; or
- abide by any other order the presiding Judge or Justice of the Peace may make.