Notice to the Profession – Court Operations in the East Region during the COVID-19 Health Emergency (May 12, 2020)

General Introduction

The Superior Court of Justice is the court of first instance for all civil and family litigation in Eastern Ontario and for the most serious criminal matters.  It also deals with certain appeals and has specialized jurisdiction such as insolvency or construction liens.  More information about the court and its jurisdiction is available on the Ontario Court website at https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/about/jurisdiction/

Due to the public health emergency resulting from COVID 19, regular operations in the Superior Court of Justice have been suspended since March 17, 2020.  A series of province wide orders and regulations were put in place to preserve the rights of litigants and to adjourn all matters before the court at that time.  Those orders along with other province wide information affecting court operations may be reviewed on the Ontario Courts website at: www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/

Although regular operations in physical court rooms were suspended and access to court houses has been restricted in accordance with public health orders and recommendations, the court continues to deal with urgent and emergency matters in all areas of responsibility.  Those measures remain in force and are described below.

As necessary infrastructure has become available, the court has been able to offer additional services electronically and by way of virtual court appearances (in writing, by teleconference or by video conference).  As of May 19, 2020, there will be a further expansion of capacity.  Matters will continue to be dealt with by virtual hearings and court material will be filed electronically unless it is impractical to do so or a litigant has no access to a computer or the internet.

The purpose of this notice is to describe the services available as of May 19, 2020 and how to access them.  Please note that while a consistent level of service across the province and across the region is desirable, there are regional variations and variations within the region due to different resources and volumes of work at different court locations.

The East Region

The East Region of the Superior Court includes ten judicial districts serviced by courts in Ottawa, Kingston, Napanee, Belleville, Picton, Brockville, Cornwall, L’Orignal, Perth and Pembroke.  The contact information for each court and the email addresses to be used for specific purposes are set out below.

While this notice applies to the entire East Region, there may be more specific information relevant to particular court facilities in each judicial district or county.  In Ottawa there are also specific procedures to deal with specialized areas such as bankruptcy or Construction Act and lien matters.  It is impractical to include such level of detail in this notice. There may be local scheduling directives which should also be consulted.

Any member of the bar, litigant or member of the public who does not have access to the local scheduling directives may obtain a copy by contacting the trial coordinator in that municipality.  In addition, as a courtesy, the County of Carleton  Law Association (CCLA) in Ottawa has listed many of the notices on its web site under the heading “Consolidated Court & Legal Organization Closures and Procedures During COVID-19” The CCLA website may be found at: https://www.ccla-abcc.ca/.  That website also provides links to other courts and tribunals.

Please note that operations of the Divisional Court and the Small Claims Court which are branches of this court are also suspended and are not covered by this notice.  Notices regarding those branches of the court may be found on the court web site a follows:

https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/suspension-small-claims-ops/
https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notice-to-the-profession-div/

It is important that lawyers, litigants and other justice system participants act in good faith and cooperate with each other and with the court to ensure that electronic hearings are focused and fair and can be completed in a timely fashion.  The presiding judicial officer may give further direction.

Urgent Matters

Urgent matters are matters which require immediate access to the court and in which it is impractical to follow the procedures set out below.  Generally a matter is urgent if a court order is necessary to preserve life, liberty or property and time is of the essence.  The provincial notices defining urgent matters in family and civil matters and in criminal matters remain in force and may be found at the following links.

https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/covid-19-suspension-fam/
https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/covid-19-suspension-crim/

All requests to be dealt with urgently are to be directed to the trial co-ordinator at the appropriate court centre.  The email shall succinctly describe the relief requested and why it is urgent and shall attach the proposed notice of motion or other document.

The request for urgency will be reviewed by a triage judge and if accepted, the court will provide further direction.  All requests for urgency will be reviewed and assigned priority based on the triage judge’s determination and the availability of court resources.

Each judicial centre in the East Region has specific e-mail addresses for urgent matters in criminal, family and civil matters set out in the charts at the end of this notice.

Use of E-Mail and Electronic Filing

Some court documents may be filed online regardless of the COVID 19 emergency.  In particular simple applications for divorce may be initiated online and civil proceedings may be initiated and defended online through the Ontario Government portal.  Further information about regular online filing is available at the following internet addresses:

Divorce Applications: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-divorce-application-online
Civil Proceedings:  https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-civil-claim-online

Until further notice, all court documents and forms which cannot be filed through the Ontario Government portal will be filed electronically by sending them by e-mail to the appropriate generic email address for the trial coordinator or Court Services Division as identified for each court location in the charts below.

It is very important that litigants and counsel not overload the generic e-mail accounts and use them responsibly for the purposes identified.

If a litigant has no access to the internet or a computer and must file documents in paper form, further direction will be given.

Emails must be clearly identified by using a Reference Line with the court file number, short title of the proceedings, type of case and the nature of the request.  Examples follow:

“Re: 19-CV-00096 -Smith v. Jones-civil-request for urgent motion”
“Re: No file no.-Smith v. Jones-family-application for restraining order”
“Re: No file no-Smith v. R-criminal- application for habeas corpus”

It is anticipated that material filed electronically will be preserved by the court in an electronic file folder and counsel and parties will preserve their own copies.  Parties will not be expected to deliver hard copies of all of the material filed electronically for inclusion in the physical court file except to the extent they are directed to do so by the court.

Affidavits and other documents may be signed electronically during the duration of the COVID 19 emergency.   Court reporters or transcriptionists should be asked to provide an electronic certification and the electronic version of the transcript will be considered official.

For virtual hearings, the parties may be required to provide electronic extracts, summaries or copies of relevant material already filed.  The presiding judge or master will not likely have access to the physical court file.

During the period that access to the court house is limited, it may be difficult to have court orders signed, issued and entered in the traditional manner.  Electronic signatures of judicial officers will be considered sufficient and endorsements or draft orders may state that they are binding without further formality.  In some cases, if formal orders are required, those orders may have to be entered after the fact.

Court Filing Fees

Depending on the circumstances, court filing fees may have to be paid electronically, by courier, or by an undertaking to pay when the current restrictions on attending at the court house are lifted.

For emergency and urgent matters scheduled through the trial coordinator, fees will have to be paid later and an undertaking will be required.

For documents filed through the Ontario Government portal, fees are collected as part of the filing process.

For new civil or family motions you may be directed by the court to courier a cheque to the court house at the time of scheduling or else you will have to pay the fee when the current restrictions on attending at the court house are lifted.  An undertaking may be required.

The Open Court Principle

Courts in Ontario operate under the Open Court Principle which provides that except in particular types of proceedings such as those involving children or in extraordinary circumstances, court hearings are open to the public.  The closure of court houses and the need to implement virtual hearings creates some challenges for public access.

Members of the public or the media who wish to observe or listen to a virtual hearing will generally be entitled to do so.  Daily court lists are posted on the court website: http://ontariocourtdates.ca/scj/  A request for information or to view or listen to a hearing should be directed to the appropriate court at one of the email addresses listed on the web site: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/courthouse-email-addresses/

Expansion of Services

Although in-person attendance in court remains suspended, the court is expanding the availability of virtual hearings in each of its areas of responsibility.  In addition to urgent and emergency matters, the following services will be available.

CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

  1. Bail, Bail Reviews and Detention reviews:
    1. If the matter is on consent, including bail variations, there is no need to book a conference and the paperwork may be provided to the Court by the Crown.
    2. Contested matters will proceed by an approved video conferencing platform or by teleconference and are to be arranged through the trial coordinator. For in-custody matters, there are limited times available and communication facilities in the jails.   Hearings are not expected to exceed 1 – 2 hours.
    3. If the hearing is expected to take more than 2 hours, or in any other matter at the direction of the court, a bail hearing management conference may be required with a judge before the hearing takes place.
  2. Judicial Pre-Trials
    1. JPTs are available for both in-custody and out of custody cases. Priority will be given to matters that have been adjourned since March 16, 2020 and to matters in which both parties indicate a likelihood of resolving or narrowing the issues in the case.
    2. Note – JPTs will not be scheduled until all sides have filed their completed PTCR and all counsel have certified to the trial co-ordinator they are fully informed and in a position to discuss all areas of the prosecution.
    3. The forms and the certification are to be e-mailed directly to the trial co-ordinators at the appropriate location.
  3. Guilty Pleas
    1. Guilty pleas and sentencing hearings for in-custody cases.
    2. Guilty pleas for out-of-custody cases where there are joint submissions for non-custodial sentences.
    3. These matters are to be scheduled through the trial co-ordinator
  4. Habeas Corpus Applications – to be scheduled with the trial co-ordinator. The hearing will take place by video or audio conference.
  5. Summary Conviction Appeals – For summary conviction appeals that were scheduled to be heard in March, April, May or June, at the request of the parties, or at the direction of the court, the hearing may proceed remotely. A new date will be scheduled.
  6. Matters that were underway and were adjourned. Subject to the discretion of the presiding judge, consent of the parties if necessary, and the availability of suitable resources, any trials or other hearings that were underway and were adjourned, may be completed by electronic means.  This may include submissions, submissions on sentence and delivery of decisions.
  7. Other pre-trial motions and applications as approved by the LAJ. The court may have capacity to appoint a case management judge and to deal with other pre-trial motions or applications even if the trial date cannot be set.   Such requests should be addressed to the appropriate LAJ through trial co-ordination.

FAMILY COURT PROCEEDINGS

  1. 14B Motions. To be filed (together with an affidavit of service or consent) with the family law motions desk by e-mail as shown below.  Consent motions will be dealt with in writing.  Motions that are not on consent will be dealt with in writing or at the discretion of the presiding judge or master, by teleconference.
  2. Procedural motions and motions for disclosure. The presiding judge or master will give direction as to whether the motion will be heard on the basis of the written material filed or by videoconference or teleconferencel.
  3. Other motions.  A party which proposes that a more complex motion should be heard shall provide a notice of motion and a short focused (no more than two pages) summary of the purpose of the motion, the issues and the reason it should proceed.  The request will be filed with the family virtual counter by e-mail and sent to a triage judge.  If the judge approves the motion, further direction will be given.
  4. Case Conferences and Settlement Conferences:
    1. The Local Administrative Judge may direct the rescheduling of adjourned or cancelled conferences. Alternatively, any party may request that an adjourned or cancelled conference be rescheduled.
    2. Parties may also request case conferences or settlement conferences for matters that had not yet been scheduled.
    3. A request for a conference shall be made by e-mail directed to the family law virtual counter. Priority will be given to conferences that were cancelled or adjourned in March, April, May or June.
    4. The e-mail should briefly describe the issues to be discussed or the issues that appear capable of resolution at a settlement conference.
    5. If the conference is granted, it will proceed by video conference or teleconference.
    6. Case conference briefs are to be focused and are not to exceed six pages. Settlement conference briefs are not to exceed six pages unless permitted by the presiding judge.
    7. In Child Protection matters (CYFSA) a settlement conference will be convened if all parties request it or if a conference is directed by the LAJ.
  5. Completion of matters that were underway but were adjourned: If a trial or other hearing was underway and was adjourned, then at the discretion of the presiding judge and assuming adequate arrangements can be made to complete the matter remotely, the judge may complete the trial or the hearing.  Submissions may be made in writing, by videoconference or by teleconference.
  6. Uncontested Divorces, Adoption Applications and other Routine Matters: To the extent that all necessary steps have already been taken or may be taken, parties may request that these matters proceed.  The matter will be dealt with in writing or at the discretion of the presiding judge by teleconference or video.
  7. New Answers and Applications:
    1. Simple applications for divorce have continued to be available through the portal and should be filed using that method.
    2. The Court will also accept filing of Answers and new family law Applications or Motions to Change by e-mail directed to the family law virtual counter.
    3. Although new Applications and Motions to Change may be filed, first court dates may not be automatically available and shall be held on a “date to be fixed by the court”.

CIVIL LITIGATION

  1. Pleadings should be filed through the Ontario Government online portal.
  2. Ex Parte, consent and unopposed motions and applications are to be dealt with in writingThe motion will be filed with the civil motions counter by email along with the affidavit of service or proof that the motion is unopposed.  This will include Estates motions.  Please note that in Ottawa, there is a specific procedure for vacating construction liens through the Master’s Office.
  3. Contested motions and applications that the parties have agreed be dealt with in writing. The material is to be filed electronically with the civil motions desk as set out below.  Estates motions are also included.
  4. Motions for approval of settlements pursuant to Rule 7 (parties under a disability) These motions shall be filed electronically and will be dealt with in writing. The presiding judge may convene a teleconference or pose questions to the moving party by e-mail should that be necessary.  
  5. Motions and Applications that were commenced and adjourned may be reconvened and completed by a virtual hearing at the discretion of the presiding judge.
  6. Other motions and Applications.
    1. A party may request that a contested motion or application be scheduled. It is not necessary that the matter be “urgent” but the party requesting the hearing must demonstrate that the hearing of the motion will significantly advance the case.
    2. A request may be directed to a triage judge via the civil motions virtual counter in a brief focused e-mail of no more than two pages attaching the proposed notice of motion.
    3. The request must be served on the opposing party and will be reviewed by a triage judge.
    4. If leave is given to proceed with the motion, further direction will be given. The motion will proceed by teleconference or video conference or a hybrid process in the discretion of the presiding judge.
  7. Case conferences and requests for case management.
    1. A party may request that a case conference be convened pursuant to Rule 50.13, that a judge be appointed to hear all motions pursuant to Rule 37.15 or (in Ottawa) that the action or application be case managed. The request shall be sent to the email address shown in the chart below.
    2. Case conferences will take place by teleconference and may take place before a judge or, in Ottawa, before one of the masters.
    3. A master or judge conducting a case conference may in consultation with the LAJ or RSJ schedule a long motion or a summary judgment motion in appropriate circumstances subject to available resources.
  8. Pre-Trial Conferences.
    1. Pre-trial conferences may be requested and will proceed by videoconference or teleconference. Priority will be given to conferences that were scheduled in March, April, May or June and have been adjourned.  Conferences may also be requested for any trial that is scheduled after September of 2020.
    2. Virtual pre-trial conferences will be subject to the following requirements:
      1. The parties must provide a teleconference or video conference line if directed to do so by the court. Alternatively, the parties must be prepared to connect to a conference facility provided by the court.  In either case, all participants must be in a suitable location and suitably equipped with stable video or audio connections.
      2. Parties or Counsel must comply with Rule 53.03 and otherwise be ready to explore settlement. The case must be pre-trial ready.
      3. All parties and their counsel must participate in the conference and have full authority to negotiate.
      4. Pre-trial briefs will be filed electronically and shall be limited to ten (10) pages or fewer in length (no trial management sections are to be included); and
      5. Provide hyperlinks in the pre-trial conference brief to expert reports, case law, and any other pertinent documents.
  9. Bankruptcy and Class Proceedings.  
    1. Urgent matters under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (BIA) are scheduled through the bankruptcy office in Ottawa. See contact information below.
    2. Requests for the appointment of a Class Proceedings judge in a proposed class proceeding are to be directed to the RSJ in the usual manner. The Class Proceeding judge may convene case conferences or schedule motions in the proceeding if circumstances make it appropriate and court resources are available.  Case conferences will take place by teleconference and motions may take place by video conference.

Effective Date and Application

As noted above, this direction does not apply to Small Claims Court or Divisional Court.

This direction supersedes the Regional Direction of April 2nd, 2020 and takes effect on May 19th, 2020.  It will be in effect until further notice.

Nothing in this notice prevents the court from ordering that any particular matter proceeds immediately or in a particular manner directed by the court if the interests of justice require it.

The court will consider further expansion of services based on capacity, the availability of resources, the recommendations of provincial working groups, direction of the Chief Justice and the continuation of COVID 19 restrictions.  This may include virtual or remote trials.  Further notice will be given when service can be expanded beyond what is set out in this notice.

Calum U.C. MacLeod,
Regional Senior Justice, East Region
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

May 12, 2020

OTTAWA MATTERS
OTTAWA – URGENT MATTERS
Urgent criminal, family, child protection, civil, Divisional Court – to trial coordination OttawaSCJ.TC.Office@ontario.ca
Urgent Master’s Matters – to masters’ office Mastersofficeottawa@ontario.ca
Urgent Bankruptcy – to bankruptcy office Ottawa.SCJBankruptcy@ontario.ca
OTTAWA – NON URGENT MATTERS
OTTAWA criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

OttawaSCJ.TC.Office@ontario.ca
OTTAWAcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences

To case management coordinator

Mastersofficeottawa@ontario.ca
OTTAWA – Construction liens – see new procedures  for electronic filing –

To case management coordinator

OTTAWA – civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Ottawa.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
OTTAWA – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

ottawafamilycourt@ontario.ca

 

KINGSTON MATTERS  (County of Frontenac)
KINGSTON – URGENT MATTERS
Urgent criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
KINGSTON – NON URGENT MATTERS
KINGSTON criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

Kingston.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
KINGSTON civil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –

To trial coordination

KINGSTON – civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

KINGSTON – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

KingstonFamilyCourt@ontario.ca
NAPANEE MATTERS  (County of Lennox & Addington)
NAPANEE – URGENT MATTERS
Urgent criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
NAPANEE – NON URGENT MATTERS
NAPANEE criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

Napanee.SCJ.Courts@ontario.ca
NAPANEE– civil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences

To trial coordinator

NAPANEE – civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions.

To virtual civil counter

NAPANEE – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

 

BELLEVILLE & PICTON MATTERS  

(Counties of Hastings & Prince Edward)

BELLEVILLE & PICTON – URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination PSRHastingsPEC@ontario.ca
BELLEVILLE  & PICTON – NON URGENT MATTERS
BELLEVILLE & PICTONcriminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests – To trial coordination PSRHastingsPEC@ontario.ca
BELLEVILLE & PICTONcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –To trial coordinator
BELLEVILLE & PICTON– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Belleville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
BELLEVILLE & PICTON– Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference –new filings

To virtual counter

 

BROCKVILLE MATTERS  

(United Counties of Leeds & Grenville)

BROCKVILLE– URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination SCJBrockvilleTC@ontario.ca
BROCKVILLE – NON URGENT MATTERS
BROCKVILLE criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

SCJBrockvilleTC@ontario.ca
BROCKVILLEcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –

To trial coordinator

BROCKVILLE– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Brockville.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
BROCKVILLE – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

 

PERTH MATTERS  (County of Lanark)
PERTH– URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination Perth.Courthouse@ontario.ca
PERTH – NON URGENT MATTERS
PERTH criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

Perth.Courthouse@ontario.ca
PERTHcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –

To trial coordinator

PERTH– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Perth.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
PERTH – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference –  new filings

To virtual family counter

 

CORNWALL MATTERS 

(United Counties of Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry)

CORNWALL– URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination Cornwallscjtrialcoordination@ontario.ca
CORNWALL – NON URGENT MATTERS
CORNWALL criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests

To trial coordination

Cornwallscjtrialcoordination@ontario.ca
CORNWALLcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences

To trial coordination

CORNWALL– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Cornwall.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
CORNWALL – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

 

L’ORIGNAL MATTERS 

(United Counties of Prescott & Russell)

L’ORIGNAL– URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination LorignalTrialCoordination@ontario.ca
L’ORIGNAL – NON URGENT MATTERS
L’ORIGNAL criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

LorignalTrialCoordination@ontario.ca
L’ORIGNALcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –

To trial coordination

L’ORIGNAL– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Lorignal.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
L’ORIGNAL – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter

 

PEMBROKE MATTERS  (County of Renfrew)
PEMBROKE– URGENT MATTERS
Urgent  criminal, family, child protection, civil,   – to trial coordination PembrokeSCJTrialScheduling@ontario.ca
PEMBROKE – NON URGENT MATTERS
PEMBROKE criminal – requests for JPT, guilty pleas, other requests –

To trial coordination

PembrokeSCJTrialScheduling@ontario.ca
PEMBROKEcivil – requests for pre-trials or case conferences –

To trial coordination

PEMBROKE– civil – Rule 7 approvals – other motions in writing – requests for other motions . –

To virtual civil counter

Pembroke.SCJ.courts@ontario.ca
PEMBROKE – Family – 14b motions – requests for case conferences – requests for settlement conference – new filings

To virtual family counter