- What is the SCJ video conferencing project?
- Where is the pilot taking place?
- What type of court events are involved in the pilot?
- What is the purpose of the pilot?
- What period of time does the pilot cover?
- How do I request a video conference as part of the pilot project?
- What do I do if I don’t want the court event to proceed by video conference?
- What happens if the judge or associate judge approves the video conference request?
- What happens if the judge or associate judge does not approve the video conference request?
- What should I do the day of the video conference?
- What happens if there is a technical difficulty?
- What happens after the conference?
- What do I do if I want to use video conferencing in a location or for a proceeding that is not part of the pilot?
- Other Information and resources
What is the SCJ video conferencing project?
The SCJ video conferencing pilot project is a collaborative effort between the Superior Court of Justice, the Ministry of the Attorney General, Innovation Office and Court Services Division, supported by Justice Technology Services, Justice Video Network. The goal is to enhance access to justice by making video conferencing more accessible for certain court attendances.
Where is the pilot taking place?
The court locations participating in the pilot are:
- Toronto: 393 University Ave – Conference Room 9th floor
- Ottawa: 161 Elgin St. – Courtroom 24
- Belleville: 15 Bridge Street West – Conference Settlement Room
- Oshawa: 150 Bond Street East – 501
- Newmarket: 50 Eagle Street – Remote Testimony Room (#1196)
- Sudbury: 155 Elm St – SDL Boardroom
- Timmins: 48 Spruce St. N. – Boardroom on the top floor by the elevators (the old trial coordinators office)
- Cochrane: 149 Fourth Ave Box 638 – Boardroom B
What type of court events are involved in the pilot?
The pilot is limited to the following four court event types:
- civil pre-trials
- family case conferences
- family settlement conferences
- family trial management conferences
What is the purpose of the pilot?
Video conferencing can greatly reduce travel time (and associated costs) for counsel and parties who are located some distance away from the courthouse where their matter is being heard. Allowing a party or counsel to appear via video from a closer courthouse location will save them the time, cost and inconvenience of travel, making counsel and clients’ experience with the justice system more efficient, less costly and more positive.
This pilot project is designed to provide consistent, easy access to quality video conferencing technology. The procedural rules for family and civil cases both contemplate that certain events, including family conferences and civil pre-trials, can be conducted by video conference, with the prior approval (or direction) of a judge or associate judge. This pilot will streamline the process for requesting and scheduling video conferences.
What period of time does the pilot cover?
The pilot is launching in July 2015. Evaluation of the pilot will take place from September 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016: this will include getting feedback from everyone involved in the pilot, including lawyers, litigants/parties, judges and associate judges and court staff (trial coordinators, regional managers, directors of court operations, regional systems operators, etc.).
How do I request a video conference as part of the pilot project?
The pilot has streamlined the procedure for requesting and scheduling video conferencing for a court event, using a standardized Video Conference Request form.
The party (or counsel) who wants to use video conferencing for an event will complete and submit the form to the courthouse where the court file is located and is otherwise being heard.
The following is a summary of the steps involved in requesting a video conference in the pilot:
- The requesting party contacts the other counsel (or parties, if unrepresented) and advises them they intend to request that an event proceed by video conference. The requesting party must find out (i) whether or not the other party is consenting to the video conferencing request; and (ii) the other party’s available dates for the conference.
- The requesting party contacts the trial coordinator’s office at the courthouse where the court file is located (also called the “main site”) to identify a potential date for the video conference. (Please note, this may take a little bit of time, as the trial coordinator will also need to canvass availability at the remote location (i.e. the other court location where the party or counsel will be using the video conferencing equipment).)
- After the trial coordinator has provided a tentative date for the video conference, the requesting party completes sections A, B, C and D of the Video Conference Request form and submits it to the trial coordinator at the main site, either in person, or by email (to the email address set out on the form). The Form must also be sent to the other counsel/party(s) in the case. The Video Conference Request form must be submitted as soon as possible after the tentative date is provided and, in all cases, at least 10 days before the date scheduled for the proceeding.
- The request will be considered by the judge or associate judge who is scheduled to preside over the event. The trial coordinator will contact the requesting party to advise whether or not the video conferencing request has been approved. The requesting party will then advise the other parties whether the event will be proceeding as a video event or an in-person event.
What do I do if I don’t want the court event to proceed by video conference?
The party (or counsel) who wants to attend an event by video conference is required to contact you in advance and tell you that they will be making a video conference request. If you don’t want the event to proceed by video, you should tell them that you are objecting to the video conference request. You should still advise the requesting party what dates you are available to attend for the court event, even if you are objecting to the video conference. The requesting party will provide you with a copy of the Video Conference Request form that they submit to the Court. The form will indicate that the video conference request is not on consent.
You will have a chance to explain to the court why you don’t want the event to proceed by video, by completing and submitting a copy of the Objection to Video Conference form. You must submit the Objection within four business days of receiving the Request for Video Conference.
Your Objection will be provided, along with the Video Conference Request form, to the judge or associate judge considering the Request. (If you do not submit the Objection within four days, the judge/associate judge will make a decision based on the Request for Video Conference, without input from you.)
If you submit an Objection, you will be contacted by court staff advising you whether or not the Video Conference Request was approved.
What happens if the judge or associate judge approves the video conference request?
If the judge or associate judge approves the video conferencing request, court staff will contact and advise the requesting party and any party who has submitted an Objection to Video Conference Form. The requesting party must notify all other counsel/parties and advise them of the video conference arrangements.
Please note, it is important for all counsel and parties to prepare for the video conference event the same way they would prepare for an in-person event. In other words:
- You still need to prepare and file all the materials required for the event under procedural rules and practice directions that apply.
- You must also send in a confirmation for the event, if required by the applicable rules or practice direction.
- Make sure you attend the event on time and are fully prepared to meaningfully discuss all issues.
If for some reason you can’t attend the event, you must seek an adjournment in accordance with procedural rules; as with any other court appearance, there may be consequences for a failure to attend and last-minute adjournments (including having costs ordered against you).
What happens if the judge or associate judge does not approve the video conference request?
If the judge or associate judge does not approve the video conference request, court staff will contact and advise the requesting party and any party who has submitted an Objection to Video Conference Form.
Please note, unless otherwise directed by the judge/associate judge, it is presumed that the event will proceed as scheduled as an in-person event, meaning that you must attend in person at the time and location (i.e. the main site) of the event. If you are unable to attend the event in person on the date scheduled, you must seek an adjournment in accordance with the applicable procedural rules.
What should I do the day of the video conference?
Come early and come prepared! If you are attending the event by video from the remote location, you should be present at the video location at least 15 minutes early to make sure the room is ready and equipment is working.
Court staff will operate the video conferencing equipment at both the main location and the remote location.
If you have any questions about the location or the equipment for the video conference, check with court staff at your location; bring a copy of the Video Conference Request Form with you as it will set out the information they will need to look into the matter.
Please note that, because court lists are produced based on the location where the file is stored, the video conference event may not appear on the court list (or docket) that is posted at the remote location.
As with any other case, the presiding judge or associate judge will determine how the case will proceed. If the judge/associate judge determines that the event is not productive, he or she may adjourn the event to another date and require all parties and counsel to appear in person. And, like an in-person event, the judge or associate judge has the discretion to order costs in connection with a video conference event.
What happens if there is a technical difficulty?
If there is a problem with the video conferencing technology, court staff will try to resolve the issue.
If the problem cannot be resolved quickly, the presiding judge or associate judge will determine what should happen. The counsel or party at the remote location will be contacted by telephone. While each of the pilot locations has a telephone, it is also important for the counsel or party at the remote location to provide a contact telephone number (such as a cellphone, if they have one) so that they can be contacted if there is a problem.
What happens after the conference?
Following completion of the video conference, all participants (parties and counsel) will be expected to complete a very brief survey providing their feedback about the video conference event.
Court staff will provide copies of the survey to participants to fill out and will collect them when completed.
Feedback from participants is a key part of the pilot, so it is very important that all participants complete the survey before leaving court.
What do I do if I want to use video conferencing in a location or for a proceeding that is not part of the pilot?
At this stage, the pilot project only involves video conferencing between any two of the eight pilot locations, and for the four court event types listed above. Video conferences involving three or more different locations (i.e. multi-point video conferences) are also currently outside the pilot’s scope.
However, where video conferencing technology is available, parties (and counsel) can continue to seek judicial approval to use video conferencing for locations and events outside the scope of the pilot. Any party who wishes to have an event conducted by video conference should bring a motion or submit a request as required under the ordinarily applicable procedural rules, and not through the pilot`s Video Conference Request form and procedure.
Other Information and resources
SCJ video conferencing pilot project webpage
Pilot Project Forms
- Rule 2 – Interpretation
- Rule 17 – Conferences
- Rule 1.08 – Telephone and Video Conferences
- Rule 50 – Pre-Trial Conference