April 22, 2020
COVID-19 Pushes the Courts & Lawyers to Adapt Quickly
Note: the following is general information only. Please visit the website of the BC Provincial Court and BC Supreme Court for their practice directions, and consult a lawyer.
- BC Supreme Court: https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/
- BC Provincial Court: https://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/COVID19
The Courts of British Columbia have been forced to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly. As stated in my previous post, the courts will, and are, having to act quickly in a fluid state. The BC Supreme Court has made a number of modifications to increase access to the courts and to try and deal with the backlog created by the suspension of court proceedings from 19 March 2020 to 01 May 2020. The Provincial Court of British Columbia is sure to follow suit in a similar manner.
The BC Supreme Court has expanded the scope of what applications it will hear to include, not only urgent applications, but also applications that were previously scheduled but adjourned because of the COVID-19 pandemic (between 19 March 2020 and 01 May 2020). However, the application must be limited to an hour or less. The court retains discretion to determine whether it should be heard and the hearing will occur by telephone conference (or “TCH” for Telephone Conference Hearing). The direction states, in part:
Parties who had a matter scheduled for hearing during the Suspension Period (i.e.,between March 19, 2020 and May 29, 2020) may schedule a TCH for matters that meetthe following criteria:
• The matter is limited to one disputed issue, or (if the matter involves more than one issue) the parties have reached consent on some or all of the issues;
• The disputed issue is suitable for determination by telephone and is estimated to take less than one hour; and
• The disputed issue can be addressed on the basis of a single affidavit filed per party, no longer than 10 pages.
The Court has discretion to decide if a matter scheduled by the parties is not
appropriate for determination at a TCH.
No matter may proceed if any party or counsel is unable to participate or is impeded from participating as a result of COVID-19.
There are further restrictions such as: the affidavit in support of the application must be less than 10 pages. There are other requirements in the filing of an application and its procedure which can be found at: https://www.bccourts.ca/supreme_court/documents/Notice_Expansion_of_Civil_and_Family_matters_Telephone_Conference_Hearings_Final.pdf.
The focus of all parties will be on the “meat and potatoes” of the application to fall within the scope of a TCH application.
The BC Supreme Court has also stated that trials and hearings after 29 May 2020 “will be affected” with details to come:
Trials scheduled for hearing following May 29, 2020 will also be affected, and further directions concerning this will come from the Court as matters evolve.
The full suspension notice can be found here:
There are several other developments that have occurred in a short time span since the pandemic was declared which requires lawyers, judges and others to keep updated on like never before. Navigating through an already difficult systems will be even more challenging for those without legal representation.
If you need legal advice, contact our office at [email protected] or through our “contact us” tab on our website.