NOTICE TO THE PROFESSION, THE PUBLIC AND THE MEDIA REGARDING CIVIL AND FAMILY PROCEEDINGS SUSPENSION OF SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE REGULAR OPERATIONS
March 15, 2020
To protect the health and safety of all court users and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) is suspending all regular operations, effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020, and until further notice.
All criminal, family and civil matters scheduled to be heard on or after Tuesday March 17, 2020 are adjourned. This includes all telephone and video-conference appearances scheduled prior to March 17, 2020, unless the presiding judicial officer directs otherwise. Lawyers and litigants with matters scheduled on or after March 17, 2020 are advised not to attend the courthouse.
The Court will continue to hear urgent matters during this emergency period. The Court plays a fundamental role in our constitutional democracy. Access to justice for the most urgent matters must always remain available. This Notice identifies the urgent civil and family matters that shall be heard during the suspension of operations, and the process for bringing such matters before the Court.
A separate Notice to the Profession and the Public will issue, governing criminal matters during the suspension of the Court’s regular operations.
In the weeks ahead, the Court will finalize a plan to resume regular operations. We anticipate the establishment of a Return to Operations (RO) Scheduling Court, where matters that have been adjourned will be rescheduled. We will strongly encourage counsel and parties to consent to future hearing dates. Should an appearance before the RO Scheduling Court be required, matters will likely be heard by teleconference.
For regular filings, that are not urgent as defined below, the Ministry of the Attorney General advises that courthouses will remain open. Those filings may continue to occur at courthouses. However, where procedural rules or court orders require the regular filing of documents during this emergency period, and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court’s normal operations resume. Parties must still comply with orders/rules requiring the service or delivery of documents as between parties.
In the event courthouses become closed or are inaccessible due to safety concerns, and to preserve limitation periods under the Limitations Act, parties should file Claims or Statements of Claims through the Small Claims Court online filing service, or the Civil Claims Online Portal for Superior Court civil matters. Limited family proceedings can also be filed electronically through the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website for filing divorce applications.
During this temporary suspension of regular operations, the Court calls upon the cooperation of counsel and parties to engage in every effort to resolve matters.
COVID-19 Pandemic Planning for the Scheduling of Matters in the Ontario Court of Justice
Public health officials have recommended that measures be taken to reduce the amount of time individuals spend in large crowds or in crowded spaces to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in a community.The Ontario Court of Justice is committed to ensuring that those with urgent matters continue to have meaningful access to the court. With that in mind, the Ontario Court of Justice has established procedures to reduce the number of people who attend court for criminal, family and Provincial Offences Act matters.
As of Monday March 16, if you have a Provincial Offences Act, family or criminal court appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice you do not need to attend court, unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter or an urgent family matter.
Note: Please do not come into a courthouse in person if you have been advised by public health officials, your doctor or the Ontario Ministry of Health (MOH) website (https://www.ontario.ca/page/2019-novel-coronavirus) to self-isolate.
The court will post further information as it becomes available, so please continue to check the Ontario Court of Justice website (https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/) for updates.