COVID-19 (yes, that again) has forced many online filings and hearings. Slowly the Courts are getting up to speed with on-line filings. Just recently the Small Claims Court has expanded the on-line filing and hearings, meanwhile, the Superior Court had expanded their on-line filing and hearing matters for months now. Discoveries and Examinations are also successfully being conducted virtually.
But are they less effective for either party?
Every time someone in the office does something we haven’t done before, I always ask how it went. Consistently I am told that while it is a bit different, it isn’t having a negative affect on clients and they like not having the added stress of driving, sometimes a few hours, to get to where they need to be.
For Motions and hearings, the process would be you logging into a Zoom meeting and sit in a “waiting room” until a Court official lets you into the meeting. This is no different than sitting in a room waiting for your matter to be called.
When being questioned, you are still asked if you are going to affirm or swear on a holy book and you still raise your right hand and confirm that you will tell the truth. You are asked questions, and then you are cross-examined. The Judge is still sitting there listening as is counsel, and you see each party sitting there. A really good thing about the virtual hearings, only the ones who are talking have their mics on and everyone else is muted so there is no unnecessary background noise.
Me personally, I feel that maybe as a regular person and not a Court official or lawyer, you may feel more comfortable sitting in your home or place of business rather than having the stress of driving to a Court Office, looking for parking and trying to find your Court room. Virtual hearings let you grab your coffee or water, sit down at the comfort of your desk, click and link and wait your turn.
Christine Allan, Law Clerk