Notice to the Profession and Public Regarding Court Proceedings

June 18, 2021 update (gowning clarification June 29, 2021)

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice will increase the number of in-person non-jury hearings effective June 21, 2021. As indicated in the May 12, 2021 Notice, some locations may resume jury selection and jury trials commencing July, August or September. The increase of in-person hearings as well as resumption of jury selection and jury trials will be subject to the discretion of the Regional Senior Justice and the public health situation provincially and regionally. Please check for local directions and/or confirm with local scheduling staff. It is expected that virtual hearings will continue alongside in-person hearings.

Courts and offsite jury selection locations will follow all Ministry of the Attorney General health and safety measures and protocols, including any protocols relating to the appropriate number of people in each courtroom, masking and social distancing.

Notwithstanding the above, I recognize that some counsel, parties and justice participants may be uncomfortable attending a courthouse during this time. I have encouraged all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to be flexible and to respect the various reasons why an individual may not be comfortable attending a courthouse in person. The feasibility of a virtual hearing or alternate arrangements is to be explored, when requested. Similarly, I encourage counsel and parties to be accommodating when requests for virtual hearings or other arrangements are made by opposing counsel or parties.

For in-person proceedings, counsel must gown in accordance with paragraphs 59-61 of the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction. Gowns are not required in virtual proceedings. Where gowning is required, counsel must gown regardless of whether the presiding judicial official is a judge or a master.

May 12, 2021 update

In response to the continuing public health situation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice will continue to operate in accordance with the direction of April 8, 2021 that stated:

Until further direction from the Court, all non-jury matters should proceed virtually unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the proceedings in-person. To the greatest extent possible, all other avenues should be explored and implemented. This applies to proceedings throughout the province and will remain in effect until further notice of this Court. Counsel and parties should request in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary and I have requested all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to hold in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary. The requirement to gown remains suspended for all in-person, hybrid and remote hearings. Should matters deteriorate, further changes may be announced.

Future jury selection and trials

The Court will not resume jury matters in June. The Court may be in a position to resume jury selection and jury trials in July, August or September, subject to the public health situation provincially and regionally and regional direction from the Regional Senior Justice. Please check for local directions and/or confirm with local scheduling staff.

April 20, 2021 update

In view of the strengthened stay-at-home order and the critical situation with the pandemic, over the next several weeks until May 7, to  reduce the number of court staff, counsel or parties required to leave their homes to participate in court proceedings, the Court will  defer as many matters as possible. This includes virtual hearings.

The Court will focus on hearing

  • the most serious child protection matters
  • urgent family matters
  • critical criminal matters, and
  • urgent commercial or economic matters where there are employment or economic impacts.

Subject to the discretion of the trial judge, matters that are in-progress can continue. The positions of the parties and staff should be strongly considered and alternate arrangements should be made for those who do not wish to attend in-person.

The Court is seeking the cooperation of counsel to defer as much as possible.

April 8, 2021 update

The Court is an essential service and will remain open. However, during the province-wide stay-at home order that is in effect until May 6, 2021, in-person matters will not be held with the exception of only the most serious child protection matters, urgent family matters and critical criminal matters, where other options are absolutely unavailable. In determining whether a matter falls into this exceptional category, the Court will take into account the local public health situation and positions of the parties.

The Court will continue to hear as many matters as possible virtually. Subject to the discretion of the trial judge, in-person matters that are in progress can continue. The positions of the parties should be strongly considered and alternate arrangements should be made for those who do not wish to attend in-person.

The requirement to gown remains suspended for all in-person, hybrid and remote hearings.

March 17, 2021

In response to the evolving public health situation and based on public health advice, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice anticipates resuming the conduct of some jury trials in June and July.

However, these changes are contingent upon the public health situation in each region being stable. Should matters deteriorate, further changes may be announced.

Jury selection and trials

Subject to further direction from the Regional Senior Justice and public health information, the Court anticipates resuming new jury selection and jury trials:

  • on June 7, 2021 at the earliest, in the Central West, Central East, Central South and East regions;
  • on July 5, 2021 at the earliest, in the Toronto, Northwest, Northeast and Southwest regions.

Accordingly, the previously announced suspension of jury selection and jury trials until May 3, 2021 is extended until June 7, 2021 in the Central West, Central East, Central South and East regions. In the Toronto, Northwest, Northeast and Southwest regions, the suspension is extended until July 5, 2021.

The direction to hold in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary remains in effect

Until further direction from the Court, all non-jury matters should proceed virtually unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the proceedings in-person. To the greatest extent possible, all other avenues should be explored and implemented. This applies to proceedings throughout the province and will remain in effect until further notice of this Court.

Counsel and parties should request in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary and I have requested all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to hold in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary.

February 25, 2021 update

While the Ontario Superior Court of Justice remains open during the provincial lockdown, the court must continue to make necessary changes in response to the evolving public health situation.

In view of the new provincial restrictions announced on January 12, 2021, effective January 13, 2021, the suspension of jury trials will be extended until May 3, 2021 at the earliest. No new jury selection will commence during this period. Proceedings that are in progress may continue subject to the discretion of the trial judge.

All non-jury matters should proceed virtually unless it is absolutely necessary to hold the proceedings in-person. To the greatest extent possible, all other avenues should be explored and implemented. This applies to proceedings throughout the province and will remain in effect until further notice of this Court.

Counsel and parties should request in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary and I have requested all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to hold in-person hearings only where absolutely necessary.

Further notices will be issued when public health restrictions are lifted.

December 14, 2020 update

Chief Justice Morawetz has extended the suspension of jury trials until at least January 29, 2021 in all areas of the province except Green Zones. Jury trials will recommence on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 at the earliest.

November 21, 2020 Notice

On November 21, 2020, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice suspended new jury selection for new jury trials in all areas of the province except Green Zones until at least January 4, 2021.

By this update, the profession and public is notified that

In view of the public health situation, effective Monday, November 23, 2020, the Court will not commence any new jury selection in any court location except in those in a Green Zone as defined by the Ontario Government as of the date of this notice https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-open.

This will remain in effect until at least January 4, 2021. An update will be issued on December 29, 2020.

To be clear, only court locations in Green Zones as of the date of this Notice will commence new jury selection until at least January 4, 2021.

Jury trials currently in progress can proceed, subject to the discretion of the trial judge.

Toronto and Peel

In the lockdown regions of Toronto and Peel, until further notice new (non-jury) matters that do proceed in-person will be required to maintain a 10-person limit in each courtroom.

Matters that are in progress involving greater than 10 persons in a courtroom, may continue at the discretion of the trial judge.

Virtual Proceeding Strongly Encouraged In All regions

In all regions, I strongly encourage the use of virtual proceedings wherever possible. I recognize that parties, counsel and participants may not be comfortable attending a courthouse or travelling to attend court. The Court must respond to this situation with great flexibility.

I have requested all judicial officers, when exercising their authority, to be as flexible as possible and to encourage virtual proceedings, wherever possible. Similarly, I request counsel and parties to be accommodating when requests for virtual hearings or other arrangements are made by opposing counsel or parties.

We must continue to do what we can to move matters forward while supporting public health efforts to stabilize the situation.

Geoffrey B. Morawetz
Chief Justice
Ontario Superior Court of Justice