Is it an Emergency? Justice Myers Expresses His Concerns
As many are aware, COVID-19 has not had a positive impact on the justice system. In accordance with the Notice to the Profession dated March 15, 2020, regular operations of the Superior Court of Justice were suspended, given the pandemic and only certain urgent and emergency matters were to be heard by the Superior Court of Justice.
Although since then a further update was provided wherein it was made clear that additional matters will be scheduled for a remote hearing by telephone or video conference or heard in writing, to the extent that your particular matter does not fall within the narrow exceptions currently in effect, the Court will consider whether it is urgent before scheduling a hearing.
Justice Myers commented on the question of whether a matter is urgent in a recent Endorsement and expressed his concern about the ability of the Court to offer services during this unprecedented time.
In the particular case at hand, the Applicant, sent application materials to the Court raising concerns about the upcoming closing of a pending real estate transaction and the possibility of a residential eviction. Justice Myers noted that this was done, knowing of the Chief Justice’s Order dated March 19, 2020, suspending residential evictions in Ontario.
Nevertheless, Justice Myers, via a handwritten Endorsement dated April 2, 2020, scheduled this proposed matter for a case conference, by finding that the urgency standard in the Notice to the Profession dated March 15, 2020 was met. Following the delivery of the Endorsement to counsel for the parties, the Court received a letter from the Respondent, containing submissions as to why the matter was not urgent and should not be scheduled for a hearing.
Justice Myers noted that the Court is now routinely receiving submissions on the issue of “urgency” both before and after the Court scheduled a matter for a hearing. Justice Myers further re-iterated the following:
- The Notice to the Profession is a not a statute passed by the Legislature of Ontario;
- Litigants and lawyers alike are asked “to recognize the exceptional times and to try and cooperate to avoid the need for Court proceedings where possible”;
- Guidelines are provided for those who need to access the Court while they are not in full operation; and
- Importantly, none of this affects the Court’s jurisdiction or the applicable rules of law such that scheduling is an administrative function of the Court.
In light of the above, Justice Myers made it clear that the scheduling of an “urgent” matter is not a legal determination and therefore there is no need or call for detailed submissions. His Honour further re-iterated that not only is it not required, but that it is not helpful and that it must stop.
In analyzing Justice Myers’ Endorsement, and given the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, it is important that counsel cooperate with one another and the Court in effectively moving matters forward with minimized impact on the parties and the justice system. We are all, after all, in this together.
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