As Alberta courts gradually resume hearings both in-person and remotely following the temporary closure of court operations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, parties should be aware of certain guidelines and health and safety measures that have been put in place for attendance at courthouses in Alberta, scheduling matters, filing documents and remote hearings.
HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES BEING TAKEN BY THE ALBERTA COURTS
Masks are now required to be worn by all persons entering a courthouse in Alberta (including in the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Court of Appeal, and the Provincial Court of Alberta).
The Alberta courts have also implemented measures to screen for COVID-19 at courthouse entrances, to create appropriate social distancing, and to clean and sanitize the courthouses.
Court of Queen’s Bench
- Documents filed digitally or online: A number of court documents can now be filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench by email or digital upload. The Court created guidelines for digital upload of documents, which all counsel and parties are expected to comply with. These guidelines can be viewed on the Court of Queen’s Bench website here.
- Emergency Urgent Hearing Request process: With the Court’s resumption of operations, the Emergency/Urgent Hearing Request process (which was implemented as a result of COVID-19 courthouse closures) is now suspended. Parties are now able to attend the remote regular (morning) chambers to schedule a chamber’s application for these matters.
- Master’s Chambers applications: Regular remote hearings for Master’s Chambers applications commenced at the beginning of June (for applications with an anticipated length of 20 minutes or less) via video conference and audio. In Edmonton and Calgary, regular Master’s Chambers are now being held at 10 am every Court sitting day, Tuesday through Friday. Bankruptcy Hearing Lists are being held at 10 am every Monday the court is sitting (excepting holidays).
- Civil Chambers applications: Regular Civil Chambers applications before a Justice (with an anticipated length of 20 minutes or less) in Edmonton and Calgary commenced remotely at the beginning of June. Regular Civil Chambers continue to be held at 10 am every Court sitting day.
- Family Chambers applications: The Court commenced remote hearings for regular Family Chambers applications (with an anticipated length of 20 minutes or less) at the beginning of June. Regular Family Chambers continue be held at 10 am every Court sitting day.
- Short criminal trials to resume: For criminal matters in the Court of Queen’s Bench, in-person hearings resumed across Alberta at the beginning of July for some short (5 days or less), judge-alone criminal trials via video and in-person, in COVID-safe courtrooms.
- Summary conviction appeals and other trials: The Court also announced that, in the event the available trial slots are not filled with short, judge-alone trials, it will offer these slots to: summary conviction appeals for Criminal Code offences; short family, civil and commercial trials; or other family, civil and commercial matters both remotely and in-person, in COVID-safe courtrooms. Priority is given to summary conviction appeals, family, civil and commercial trials and matters scheduled to be heard between March 16 and June 26, 2020, and adjourned pursuant to the Court’s Master Orders due to the pandemic.
Court of Appeal
- Remote electronic hearings: As of July 16, 2020, remote electronic hearings (via video conference and audio conference) in the Court of Appeal are open to counsel and self-represented litigants, media and the wider public in accordance with rules set forth by the Court of Appeal in this notice.
- Privacy concerns for remote electronic hearings: Any identified or potential privacy or confidentiality concerns with regard to a remote hearing (which is accessible to the general public) must be raised with the Court by counsel or self-represented litigants in advance of a party’s electronic hearing by completing the Confidentiality or Privacy Concerns Form and submitting it to the Court no later than 10 business days before the scheduled date for the electronic hearing.
- Documents filed electronically: The public portal to the Court of Appeal’s electronic filing system (called “CAMS” or the Court of Appeal Management System) will open on August 31, 2020. More information on the CAMS system is available here.
- Appellate Judicial Dispute Resolution (“JDR”) resumes: The suspension on appellate JDRs was lifted as of early July. Appellate JDRs in the Court of Appeal will be conducted remotely through video conference.
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