Tag: Virtual Hearings
What is CaseLines?
As noted in the Supplementary Notice to the Profession and Litigants in Civil and Family Matters Regarding the Caselines Pilot, E-Filing, and Fee Payment, CaseLines is a user-friendly cloud-based document sharing e-hearing platform for remote and in-person court proceedings. It is being used to provide a platform for parties to upload electronic copies of their documents for review by all participants before and during a court hearing. It is important to note that parties are still required to file materials in accordance with the applicable rules of Court and Notices to the Profession.
Parties have new responsibilities when using CaseLines, including, among other things, adding their email addresses to all court documents, using a specific document naming method, and uploading each document to be marked as an exhibit during the hearing separately.
In addition, while there are many benefits to using CaseLines, some that are particularly helpful are that users can make private notes and highlight documents, terms can be searched in all uploaded documents, and parties can navigate documents and direct opposing counsel and the court to view specific sections. These features can increase efficiency and make it easier for all parties and the court to quickly navigate through specific documents during a hearing.
The pilot project began in August 2020 for select civil motions and pre-trial conferences in Toronto. The goal was to gradually expand to other practice areas and court locations.
In Toronto, CaseLines was expanded to select family matters in December 2020 and select criminal matters as of February 8, 2021. Effective March 1, 2021, CaseLines started being used for select civil, family and criminal proceedings in the East and Northwest Regions. It is anticipated that province-wide expansion of the CaseLines pilot will continue throughout the summer and that all judicial regions will be using CaseLines by the end of summer 2021.
Since the CaseLines pilot was launched in August 2020, there have been many helpful resources that have been published to assist parties in learning how to use this new process, some of which have been included below:
- A demonstration of CaseLines;
- An 18 Minute Tutorial on how to access, update, invite people and review evidence for cases;
- Frequently Asked Questions About Thomson Reuters CaseLines;
- CaseLine Hearings – Tips for Counsel and Self-Represented Parties; and
- Sydney Osmar’s article on MAG’s Pilot Project with CaseLines.
Thank you for reading!
As the readers of our blogs are well aware, the new COVID-19 ‘normal’ has extended into the practice of estates and trusts. While solicitors have had to adapt to the way wills are prepared, litigators (barristers) have also had to adapt. Procedures that were ordinarily done in person, such as mediation, examinations, and trials, are now being done virtually.
Amongst my peers, the decision by Justice Myers in Arconti v. Smith has been pointed to as the authority that despite COVID-19, the show must go on. Please see my firm’s blog for an excellent summary of Justice Myer’s decision. Those on the other side of the fence, wishing to delay the show, have pointed to Justice Morgan’s case conference endorsement who found that:
“I am anxious not to delay litigation any more than needed given the present court suspension and general societal lockdown. At the same time, I would not want to hold a hearing that in its very format raises due process questions for whichever party ends up being unsuccessful. I admire Defendant’s counsels’ enthusiasm, and would be willing to conduct the hearing via videoconference if both sides were willing to do so. However, I do not think it appropriate to compel the moving party to proceed under conditions where Plaintiffs’ counsel perceive that they may not be able to present the case as effectively as they would in person.”
However, since this endorsement, Justice Morgan has issued a continued case conference, whereby, following Arconti, the show will go on – the matter will now proceed virtually. Morgan J. found that:
“I have full confidence that counsel in this case, who, while arguing adversarial positions, appear to have developed a very professional and civil working relationship, will be able to rise to the challenge of conducting a complex hearing by videoconference. They have already indicated to me a willingness to work together to provide the court with a convenient method for filing and accessing the voluminous materials through cloud-based storage.”
So, are virtual hearings the new normal? It sure seems so. Decisions finding the contrary continue to be revisited and reversed. The show must go on.
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Representatives of the Courts of Ontario, the Ministry of the Attorney General and various stakeholder representatives are meeting regularly in order to deal with the COVID-19 crisis and the courts’ response to it.
At present, the Ministry and the courts are working towards a further expansion of the courts. To date, since the declaration of the emergency, the Superior Court of Justice has heard about 1,000 matters, being motions, conferences and pre-trials. However, it is hoped that the types of matters to be heard and the number of matters can be expanded in the near future.
Committees are currently considering the expansion of court services. Priorities being discussed include:
- Identifying a Document Sharing Platform to be used by judges, counsel and parties;
- Identifying a Video Conferencing Platform to be used by judges, counsel and parties; and
- Determining a protocol to be used by court staff for supporting virtual hearings.
It is expected that the selection of a Document Sharing Platform will be made by next week, with the other items to be in place shortly thereafter. While there is no set time frame, once the systems are put in place, there will be an announcement with respect to the expansion of court services.
It would appear that once these systems are put in place, there will be no turning back. Virtual hearings, at least to a certain extent, will be the new norm. Previous attempts to modernize the court by allowing virtual attendances, through a service called CourtCall, did not gain much traction. However, I suspect that there is now a greater appetite for and comfort with virtual hearings. Further, it is likely that the hearings will be supported by better document management and document filing facilities; something that was lacking under past experiments.
And stay safe.