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Nova Scotia court expanding certain services

Thursday, May 13, 2021 @ 12:32 PM | By Terry Davidson

In a bid to lessen backlog caused by a recent scaling back of operations, Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court will expand some of its services while continuing to run under an essential services model.

Any non-urgent matters in the Supreme Court’s general division that can be done by telephone or videoconference will be allowed to proceed across the province, starting May 25.

Matters would include those involving probate and bankruptcy, according to a May 13 notice.

This is a slight loosening of the rules put forth in an April 28 notice, which stated that all Supreme Court general division locations across the province would adopt an essential services model.

Under this model, in-person proceedings are limited to those deemed urgent or essential by a judge. All other matters requiring in-person appearances were adjourned and set to be rescheduled.

The move was yet another bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, which had seen a spike in new cases.

This new expansion of services is meant to mitigate any resulting backlog, says a spokesperson.

“Whatever matters we can move forward virtually, we want to start doing that as soon as possible,” said Nova Scotia Judiciary director of communications Jennifer Stairs. “This will help with the growing backlog of cases and make it a bit easier to transition back to more normal operations, when it is safe to do so.”

Also, as of May 17, the court will return to its normal procedures for filing court documents for both urgent and non-urgent matters.

“That means the Supreme Court (General Division) will no longer accept electronic filings; counsel and parties will be expected to file paper copies of documents,” states the notice. “Filings will be done via drop boxes at the main entrances of the courthouses.”

However, it notes counsel are not required to file original paper copes of documents that were filed electronically since April 28 — with the exception of sworn documents, such as affidavits.

“Starting Monday, May 17, 2021, counsel will have 30 business days to submit original paper copies of sworn documents that were filed.”

The suspension of filing deadlines — as outlined in the April 28 notice — will remain in place “to help reduce the number of people who have to visit a courthouse in person,” the notice states.

Counsel are warned to expect delays in the processing of paperwork due to reduced staff in courthouses.

The notice goes on to reiterate the importance of remote communications during the ongoing health crisis, as well as the need for proper masking for those matters needing to be carried out in person.

“To help reduce the number of people appearing in person for urgent or essential matters, judges will continue to consider whether alternative measures, such as telephone or videoconferencing may be used. Counsel are reminded that mandatory masking and physical distancing measures will be in effect for any court matter that proceeds in person,” it states.

On May 12, Nova Scotia’s government reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.

It also reported 119 recoveries.

As of that day, there were 1,621 active cases in the province. There were 73 people being treated in hospital — including 14 in intensive care.

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