East Coast court using ‘default positions’ for in-person, virtual matters

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (February 28, 2023, 1:54 PM EST) -- Nova Scotia’s Supreme Court is adopting “presumptive default positions” for whether certain civil, family and criminal proceedings will be heard in person, virtually or by telephone.

The new default positions take hold March 1, according to a news release.

Still, it stresses these “are presumptive default positions only,” and that judges will continue to have discretion in ultimately deciding what format works best in what circumstances.

As was the case across Canada, Nova Scotia’s courts leaned heavily on the use of virtual appearances and teleconferencing to stay at least somewhat operational during COVID-19 lockdowns.

“Ever since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic back in March 2020, the Supreme Court has been proactively reviewing and adapting its processes to ensure court users continue to have their matters dealt with in a timely, fair, and effective manner,” states the release.

“With the lifting of most public health restrictions in March 2022, the Supreme Court saw an opportunity to evaluate the benefits and challenges associated with the increased use of virtual court technology. The Supreme Court Futures Working Group was established to make recommendations on the continued use of virtual court.”

The default positions will be in place for criminal, civil and family court proceedings.

For example, non-family civil date assignment conferences will be via telephone, while pretrial conferences and trials will be in-person; routine conferences, date assignments and pretrials for family court matters will be done virtually or by telephone, whereas contested trials and child protection matters will be in-person; and criminal case conferences will be done virtually, while pretrial applications, bail hearings and trials will be in person.

A complete list of the default positions is included in the news release.

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for Law360 Canada, please contact Terry Davidson at t.davidson@lexisnexis.ca or 905-415-5899.