Notice Re Urgent Matters Emailed to Trial Co-Ordinators

24/03/2020

For all urgent matters emailed to trial coordinators pursuant to the Chief Justice’s Notices to the Profession dated March 15, 2020, please be advised that emails received at or after 4:30 pm will be addressed the following business day. This administrative measure is necessary to manage the high volume of emails sent to trial coordinators in each area of the Superior Court’s work: civil, family, criminal and Divisional Court.

NOTICE REGARDING THE SUSPENSION OF SMALL CLAIMS COURT SITTINGS

16/03/2020

March 16, 2020

Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, all sittings of the Ontario Small Claims Court are suspended until further notice. The hearings suspended include, but are not limited to, all trials, settlement conferences, motions, assessment hearings, garnishment hearings, contempt hearings and examinations, including teleconference hearings and videoconference hearings.

The Ministry of the Attorney General advises that courthouses will remain open. Small Claims Court filings may continue at those courthouses. However, where it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse, or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, do not attend the courthouse. Where procedural rules or court orders require the regular filing of documents during this emergency period, and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court’s normal operations resume. Parties must still comply with orders and rules requiring the service or delivery of documents as between parties.

If you are unable to attend at a courthouse and wish to file a claim in Small Claims Court during the suspension, you may do so online at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-small-claims-online. If you require a lawyer, paralegal or other representative to assist you in filing a claim, you may seek assistance through Pro Bono Ontario’s hotline (1-855-255-7256).

If you are a judgment debtor with an outstanding arrest warrant issued in relation to an Ontario Small Claims Court finding of contempt, and wish to address the warrant during the suspension, please contact the local trial coordinator.

The Ontario Small Claims Court continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation. In the weeks ahead, the Court will finalize a plan to resume regular operations and reschedule matters.

You may wish to also consult the Ministry of Health’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/coronavirus for further information on how to protect yourself.

While the Ontario Small Claims Court is an important source of timely access to justice in Ontario, the health and safety of those who use and work in the Small Claims Court is our priority.

Thank you very much for your understanding and co-operation during this extraordinary time.

 

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Superior Court of Justice

Notice to Accused Persons, Profession, Crown, Public Prosecution Service of Canada, Correctional Institutions, Witnesses, Jurors, The Public and The Media Regarding Criminal Operations

15/03/2020

SUSPENSION OF SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE REGULAR OPERATIONS

March 15, 2020

To protect the health and safety of all court users and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) is suspending all regular operations, effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and until further notice.

By order of Chief Justice Morawetz, for any accused person who has a criminal matter scheduled for any type of appearance in the Superior Court of Justice between March 17, 2020 and June 2, 2020, that matter is adjourned, unless directed otherwise by the Court. To preserve jurisdiction, for all accused persons who have been scheduled to appear between March 17, 2020 and June 1, 2020 a bench warrant with discretion will issue as of the date the person is scheduled to appear, pursuant to s. 597 (4) of the Criminal Code.

Accordingly, accused persons with matters scheduled in the Superior Court of Justice in the month of March, 2020:

  • are adjourned until June 2, 2020
  • must appear in court on June 2, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the court location at which they were to appear in March, 2020.
  • a bench warrant with discretion is issued to return on June 2, 2020, and
  • if the person fails to appear on June 2, 2020, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

Accused persons with matters scheduled in the Superior Court of Justice in the month of April, 2020:

  • are adjourned until June 3, 2020
  • must appear in court on June 3, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the court location at which they were to appear in April, 2020.
  • a bench warrant with discretion is issued to return on June 3, 2020, and
  • if the person fails to appear on June 3, 2020, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

Accused persons with matters scheduled in the Superior Court of Justice in the month of May, 2020:

  • are adjourned until June 4, 2020
  • must appear in court on June 4, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. at the court location at which they were to appear in May, 2020.
  • a bench warrant with discretion is issued to return on June 4, 2020, and
  • if the person fails to appear on June 4, 2020, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. 

A. URGENT CRIMINAL MATTERS DURING THE SUSPENSION
The Court will continue to hear urgent matters during this emergency period. The Court plays a fundamental role in our constitutional democracy.  Access to justice for the most urgent matters is available. This Notice identifies the urgent criminal matters that will be heard during the suspension of operations, and the process for bringing such matters before the Court.

  1. Judicial Pretrials 
  1. Any counsel requiring a judicial pretrial on an urgent in-custody matter that has been affected by this adjournment should make arrangements with the Crown and make a request through the trial coordinator
  2. A list of trial coordinators’ contact information can be accessed here
  3. Judicial pretrials will be handled by phone
  4. Crown and defence counsel will be required to file matters electronically with the trial coordinator
  5. The court requests the cooperation of Crown and defence in assisting to provide the court with the necessary material during off-site operations
  6. All judicial pretrials scheduled prior to March 17, 2020 are adjourned, unless the presiding judicial officer directs otherwise. These matters may be rescheduled in the upcoming weeks and will be conducted by phone.
  1. Trials
  1. All trials are adjourned, unless ordered otherwise
  2. Accused persons, witnesses and counsel involved in jury trials that are in progress will receive direction from the presiding judge on March 16, 2020 
  1. Witnesses, Lawyers and Jurors

Witnesses, lawyers and jurors should not attend court for trials or any matters between March 17 and May 29, 2020, unless specifically ordered to do so by the presiding judge. Jurors and witnesses will be re-notified of when to attend. Unless ordered otherwise, ongoing trials will be adjourned to a date after June 1, 2020.

  1. Bail, Bail Reviews and Detention Reviews

Bail, Bail Reviews and Detention Reviews will be available remotely.  The court will utilize to the fullest extent Criminal Code provisions permitting matters to be heard in the absence of the accused, or in the presence of the accused by way of audioconference or, if available, videoconference. Parties are urged to provide consent to the use of these alternative processes to the fullest extent possible, where such consent is required.

Defence and Crown counsel should work together to arrange a date and the filing of materials through the trial coordinator.

  1. Self- represented persons

Assistance to self-represented persons may be available through a roster of volunteers from the criminal defence bar.

  1. Sureties

Defence counsel will be responsible for arranging to confirm sureties’ identification and to assist them to sign bail by signing an electronic bail release and scanning it back to the court registrar to be forwarded to the institution.

  1. Guilty Pleas and Sentencing

Guilty pleas and sentencing can be dealt with remotely for persons in custody in urgent circumstances.

Counsel should book a judicial pretrial to make arrangements.

  1. Resumption of Normal Operations

In the weeks ahead, the Court will finalize a plan to resume regular operations.  Criminal matters are scheduled to return in the first week in June. However, if circumstances change and normal operations can resume earlier, the court will notify counsel, the Crown and institutions. 

B. REGULAR FILINGS

For regular filings, that are not urgent as defined in this memo, the Ministry of the Attorney General advises that courthouses will remain open.  Those filings may continue to occur. However, where procedural rules or court orders require the filing of documents during this emergency period and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court’s normal operations resume.

During this temporary suspension of regular operations, the Court calls upon the cooperation of Crown and defence to engage in every effort to cooperate with each other and to provide assistance to the Court in an effort to deal with urgent matters.

 

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Notice to the Profession, the Public and the Media Regarding Civil and Family Proceedings

SUSPENSION OF SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE REGULAR OPERATIONS

March 15, 2020

To protect the health and safety of all court users and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) is suspending all regular operations, effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and until further notice.

All criminal, family and civil matters scheduled to be heard on or after Tuesday March 17, 2020 are adjourned.  This includes all telephone and videoconference appearances scheduled prior to March 17, 2020, unless the presiding judicial officer directs otherwise. Lawyers and litigants with matters scheduled on or after March 17, 2020 are advised not to attend the courthouse.

The Court will continue to hear urgent matters during this emergency period. The Court plays a fundamental role in our constitutional democracy.  Access to justice for the most urgent matters must always remain available. This Notice identifies the urgent civil and family matters that shall be heard during the suspension of operations, and the process for bringing such matters before the Court.

A separate Notice to the Profession and the Public will issue, governing criminal matters during the suspension of the Court’s regular operations.

In the weeks ahead, the Court will finalize a plan to resume regular operations.  We anticipate the establishment of a Return to Operations (RO) Scheduling Court, where matters that have been adjourned will be rescheduled.  We will strongly encourage counsel and parties to consent to future hearing dates.  Should an appearance before the RO Scheduling Court be required, matters will likely be heard by teleconference.

For regular filings, that are not urgent as defined below, the Ministry of the Attorney General advises that courthouses will remain open.  Those filings may continue to occur at courthouses. However, where procedural rules or court orders require the regular filing of documents during this emergency period, and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court’s normal operations resume. Parties must still comply with orders/rules requiring the service or delivery of documents as between parties.

In the event courthouses become closed or are inaccessible due to safety concerns, and to preserve limitation periods under the Limitations Act, parties should file Claims or Statements of Claims through the Small Claims Court online filing service, or the Civil Claims Online Portal for Superior Court civil matters.  Limited family proceedings can also be filed electronically through the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website for filing divorce applications.

During this temporary suspension of regular operations, the Court calls upon the cooperation of counsel and parties to engage in every effort to resolve matters.

A. MATTERS TO BE HEARD DURING THE SUSPENSION

Until further notice, only the following urgent and emergency civil and family matters listed below shall be heard by the Superior Court of Justice.

  1. The following matters related to PUBLIC HEALTH AND SAFETY and COVID-19:
    1. applications by the Chief Medical Officer of Health for orders in relation to COVID-19;
    2. applications to restrain the contravention or continued contravention of an order made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
    3. applications to enforce orders requiring the seizure of premises, medications or supplies under the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
    4. appeals under subsection 35(16) of the Health Protection and Promotion Act;
    5. urgent requests for injunctions related to COVID-19; and
    6. urgent Divisional Court appeals and requests for judicial review related to COVID-19.
  1. The following FAMILY AND CHILD PROTECTION matters:

Only urgent family law events as determined by the presiding justice, or events that are required to be heard by statute will be heard during this emergency period, including:

    1. requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent (e.g., a restraining order, other restrictions on contact between the parties or a party and a child, or exclusive possession of the home);
    2. urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child;
    3. dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including for example the need for a non-depletion order;
    4. in a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a place of safety, and any other urgent motions or hearings.
  1. The following CIVIL and COMMERCIAL LIST (Toronto) matters:
    1. urgent and time-sensitive motions and applications in civil and commercial list matters, where immediate and significant financial repercussions may result if there is no judicial hearing.
    2. Outstanding warrants issued in relation to a Small Claims Court or Superior Court civil proceeding.
  1. Any other matter that the Court deems necessary and appropriate to hear on an urgent basis. The Bar and the public are advised that these matters will be strictly limited.

The Court has discretion to decline to schedule for immediate hearing any particular matter described in the above list, if appropriate.

A hearing may be conducted in writing, by teleconference or videoconference, unless the Court determines that an in-person hearing is necessary.  If an in-person hearing is needed, coordination will occur between the Ministry of the Attorney General, the trial coordinator and the parties/counsel to find a safe and appropriate physical facility for the hearing.

 

B. PROCEDURE TO BRING AN URGENT MATTER

Filing urgent documents

  1. Moving parties/applicants shall file urgent motion and application materials by email to the appropriate courthouse. The list of email addresses for each court may be found here.
  2. The Court expects parties will only submit brief materials to allow for a fair, timely and summary disposition. Emailed filings cannot exceed 10MB.  If the size of electronically filed material exceeds 10MB, further emails may be sent within the 10MB maximum.  Every effort must be made, however, to limit filed materials to 10MB.
  3. Unless a matter is proceeding ex parte (i.e. without notice to responding parties), filed materials must indicate when and how service on responding parties was made.
  4. Filed materials should also include any prior orders or endorsements that were issued and that are relevant to the urgent matter.
  5. Caselaw and other source materials referenced in factum should be hyperlinked. Where hyperlinks are provided, it will not be necessary to file a Book of Authority.
  6. Where it is not possible to email a sworn affidavit, affidavits may be delivered unsworn but the affiant must be able to participate in any telephone or videoconference hearing to swear or affirm the affidavit.

Scheduling a hearing

  1. Where a moving party/applicant has filed material to seek an urgent hearing, the trial coordinator will seek direction from a triage judge as to whether or not the matter is urgent and should be scheduled for a hearing. The triage judge will also determine a schedule for the service and filing of any responding material.
  2. Responding material shall be filed in the same manner as a moving party/applicant. The trial coordinator will provide to the parties the triage judge’s schedule for the service and filing of any responding material.
  3. Once all written submissions have been received, the judge will determine the manner of hearing.
  4. Matters may be heard and determined in writing, by telephone or video conference.
  5. It is anticipated that most matters will be dealt with by telephone conference, although a judge may direct a videoconference hearing. In rare instances, and where necessary and safe, some matters may be heard in-person in facilities that are deemed safe with necessary precautions in place.
  6. The trial coordinator will advise the parties/counsel of the date and time for the hearing, and the method of hearing. There will be strict limits for the duration of the hearing, and the trial coordinator will advise of the maximum allotted time for the hearing.
  7. There will be dedicated telephone conference lines for urgent hearings. There is also limited capacity for videoconference hearings. If one or more parties in a matter is represented by counsel, counsel may be asked to provide a teleconference number for the hearing.

The Hearing

  1. Where a telephone or videoconference hearing is scheduled, there will be strict time limits imposed for oral submissions, to which parties and counsel are expected to adhere.
  2. Mechanisms will be in place to record a hearing. Counsel and parties may also record a proceeding for their own purposes if authorized by the judge, pursuant to section 136(3) of the Courts of Justice Act.

C. SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS

  1. Self-represented litigants are expected to comply with the process set out in this Notice.
  2. Pro Bono Ontario has a hotline (1-855-255-7256) for self-represented litigants with civil matters where they may obtain advice and assistance from dedicated pro bono lawyers.
  3. For family litigants, the Court seeks the assistance from the family bar and Legal Aid Ontario in providing necessary support.

D. CONCLUSION
This suspension will cause substantial inconvenience to those with matters before the Court. The decision to engage this emergency process was not made lightly. However, the health and safety of the public, as well as all justice participants is a priority.

We ask for and appreciate your co-operation, flexibility and understanding during this extraordinary time.

 

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Advisory Notice to Lawyers, Litigants, Witnesses, Jurors, Media, and Members of the Public Regarding COVID-19

13/03/2020

March 13, 2020

Do not come to Superior Court of Justice Courthouses in person if you have been advised by Public Health or your doctor or the Ministry of Health (MOH) website to self-isolate due to possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is closely monitoring the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as it evolves. The safety of all who use and rely upon the Court is essential. Equally important is continued access to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice should COVID-19 disrupt court operations.  The Court is working with the Ministry of the Attorney General on contingency planning in the event court operations are disrupted.

Effective immediately, and before attending a Superior Court of Justice courthouse, all users of the Court are advised to consult the Ontario Ministry of Health’s website for the latest information around COVID-19 at: Ontario.ca/coronavirus

If you are experiencing coronavirus/COVID 19 symptoms or to determine whether you should isolate yourself or seek medical assistance, call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or your local public health unit for assistance and direction, before attending the courthouse.

Court Attendances

If you are required to be in Court and either the Ministry of Health website advises you to self-isolate or you have been advised by Public Health or your doctor to self-isolate due to possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19), do not come to the courthouse in person. Instead, immediately contact the appropriate office below to advise the Court that you have been advised not to attend and follow any directions.

It may be possible to postpone your court matter or you may be able to participate through your lawyer, or by phone or video conference. Please follow any instructions you are given. 

Please be prepared to provide your name and details about your court appearance, court file number if known, as well as any details of who advised you to isolate yourself because of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Be aware that wait times when you call the court may be longer than usual.

For ANY PERSON who has been advised by Public Health or your doctor or the Ministry of Health (MOH) website to self-isolate due to possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19):

1. For all child protection, family and civil matters (including estates and commercial list)

  1. Lawyers and litigants/party if self-represented –
  2. Witnesses –

2. For All Criminal matters

  1. Lawyers and accused persons if self-represented –
    • If you are an accused person, please contact your lawyer.
    • If you do not have a lawyer, please contact the Superior Court of Justice court office. Contact information for Superior Court of Justice courthouses is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General website: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses/.
    • If your matter is scheduled within the next 48 hours, contact the local trial coordinator.
    • Please be prepared to provide your name and details about your court appearance, court file number if known, as well any details of who advised you to isolate yourself because of exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
    • It is important that you speak to someone about your absence to avoid a warrant being issued.
  2. Witnesses
    • If there is contact information for a police officer, Officer-in-Charge or another person listed on the subpoena, please contact that person.
    • If there is no contact information listed on the subpoena, please contact the Court office. Contact information for SCJ courthouses is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General website: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses/.

3. For Persons who have received a Notice to Attend for Jury Duty

If you have received a summons for jury duty for an upcoming trial, do not attend Court. Jury panels for upcoming civil and criminal trials are cancelled for the time being. If you have been called for jury duty, you do not need to attend. Do not go to the courthouse. The courthouse or jury office will contact you if you need to attend in the future.

Jurors who have already been selected and are sitting on current jury trials must continue to attend those trials, subject to any decision otherwise by the presiding judge.

If you are uncertain of what to do, please call or email the Court office. The contact information is on your jury summons

4. For Members of the Public and the Media

The Court remains open to the public and the media.

However,

  • those who experience COVID-19 symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing), or
  • who have been advised to self-isolate, or
  • who have travelled from an area under a travel health advisory in the past 14 days, or
  • fall into any other category that may be set out on the Ministry of Health website at: Ontario.ca/coronavirus

should not attend a Superior Court of Justice courthouse.

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Notice re: reports of fraudulent phone calls

10/03/2020

There have been reports of fraudsters pretending to call from Superior Court of Justice locations, displaying Superior Court phone numbers on their caller ID. They seek to obtain your personal information, such as your Social Insurance Number (SIN), and threaten arrest.

The Superior Court of Justice will never contact you asking for your SIN or threaten arrest over the phone. If you receive a phone call claiming to be from the Superior Court of Justice and seeking your SIN or other personal information, it might be a scam. If you think it is, you may wish to visit Consumer Protection Ontario’s website at https://www.ontario.ca/page/report-scam-or-fraud.

Notice re filing of matters to be determined under s. 192 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act

14/02/2020

Starting on March 1, 2020, Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (Canada) proceedings originating in the following areas must be filed at the Superior Court of Justice in Hamilton instead of in Toronto: Hamilton, Norfolk, Haldimand, Brant, and Niagara. Cases originating in these areas and filed in Toronto prior to March 1, 2020 will continue to be heard by Registrars in Bankruptcy in Toronto, unless the court orders otherwise in specific cases.

For more information, please see:

Notice for Divisional Court users re Vavilov (SCC)

31/01/2020

Parties and counsel in Divisional Court proceedings are not required to file entire copies of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65. They must still file all pages of the decision on which they intend to rely.

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