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The Honourable Robert Richards, Chief Justice of Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan Appeal Court to resume in-person hearings

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 @ 8:48 AM | By Terry Davidson

Saskatchewan’s high court will soon resume in-person hearings. But virtual appearances will remain an option for lawyers and self-represented litigants.

Starting Sept. 7, the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan will start in-person hearings for all appeals and applications. As of then, judges and court clerks will be fixtures in the courtroom.

 Saskatchewan Chief Justice Robert Richards

Saskatchewan Chief Justice Robert Richards

But in the “interests of improving access to justice and promoting the open courts principle, counsel and self-represented litigants may, on an ongoing basis, choose ... whether to attend their hearing in person or by WebEx video,” states a recent notice from Saskatchewan Chief Justice Robert Richards.

“This means that some proceedings will feature all of the lawyers and/or self represented litigants being physically present in the courtroom, some might feature only the judges and the clerk in the courtroom with all other participants appearing by WebEx, and some might involve some counsel or self represented litigants being physically present and some appearing by WebEx. Recent upgrades to the court’s audio and visual technology have made this possible,” states Justice Richards.

However, the notice warns that parties who choose to appear remotely “will not be able to file documents with the court during the hearing.” Any documents not already provided to the court “must be provided to the other party(s) and the court’s registry office at least one clear day before the hearing date.”

The move to further open up comes as various courts across the country continue to inch towards restoring normal operations after either shutting down, scaling back or drastically changing their methods of operations in order to adhere to public health measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit in Canada, Saskatchewan’s courts made sweeping changes to their operations.

The Appeal Court turned to phone and videoconferencing; Saskatchewan's provincial court was limited to those people necessary for proceedings; the Court of Queen’s Bench suspended its operations, hearing only those matters deemed urgent, which were mostly dealt with through remote conferencing.

Earlier in July, Saskatchewan's government announced it would be lifting its remaining public health measures in the face of rising numbers of vaccinations in the province.  As of July 26, 62 per cent of Saskatchewan’s residents were fully vaccinated, according to a government press release, which went on to state that provincial health officials will shift their focus from mass vaccination to “focused outreach.”

Still, Justice Richards states in his notice that “while masks are no longer required to be worn to enter the courthouse, the court or presiding judge may still require that masks be worn and that physical distance be maintained in a courtroom during any proceeding.”

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