THE COURTS' COVID-19 MESSAGECourts of Saskatchewan
The Ministry of Justice's Court Services Branch strongly encourages everyone attending a court facility to wear a mask.
ADJUST FONT SIZE
Provincial CourtCOVID-19 UPDATE
Court of King's BenchCOVID-19 UPDATE
Court of King’s Bench for Saskatchewan
Directive | Effective September 1, 2022
This Directive updates and replaces all previously issued Directives respecting the general operations of the Court of King’s Bench while addressing issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
All public health restrictions (physical distancing, masking, etc.) have been lifted by the Public Health Officer. Accordingly, normal court operations will resume, subject only to the restrictions and modifications contained within this Directive.
The Court continues to be mindful of its obligation to continue to hear and process matters that come before the Court, while simultaneously respecting the need to adhere to recommendations and protocols designed to keep everyone safe. The Court continues to monitor the circumstances and recognizes that as the situation continues to evolve, further changes may be required.
For the most part, and subject only to the modifications contained in this Directive, the Court will revert to its pre-COVID-19 practices and procedures.
PART 1 - BACKGROUND
Commencing March 15, 2020, the Court implemented and issued a number of Directives to respond to issues created by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. All of those Directives are now repealed and replaced by this Directive.
PART 2 - EFFECTIVE DATE
This Directive update takes effect on September 1, 2022.
PART 3 - SCHEDULING
As the Court moves forward, using judicial resources efficiently is still a priority. Accordingly, to assist the Court in creating and maintaining an efficient schedule, counsel and parties are encouraged to:
- Take advantage of the expedited pre-trial process described in Practice Directive GA-PD#4 – Expedited Pre-Trial Conferences.
- Notify the local registrar as soon as possible when a scheduled conference, hearing or trial date is no longer needed.
- Collaborate with opposing counsel or parties to resolve evidential or other matters that may result in reducing trial time.
- Ensure that settlement discussions are held in a timely fashion so that, if a matter settles, there is sufficient notice to backfill the Court’s time that has become free. (Settling a matter on the “court house steps” results in an inefficient use of institutional resources.)
- Notify the local registrar immediately on becoming aware of any circumstance that could result in the delay of a scheduled matter, as this increases the opportunity for another matter to proceed in the vacated slot.
- Attempt to obtain mutually acceptable dates (several dates would be preferable) when requesting the scheduling of a civil matter and, thereafter, the party requesting the scheduling shall relay these dates to the local registrar.
- Respond promptly to all messages and calls from the local registrar.
PART 4 - CHAMBERS AND PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCES (OTHER THAN CHILD PROTECTION)
Commencing on the Effective Date, all Chambers proceedings and Pre-Trial Conferences will be presumptively in person unless otherwise ordered. Those who wish to appear remotely should contact the local registrar, in advance, to seek leave from the presiding judge to appear remotely.
PART 5 - USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Although court appearances will revert presumptively to in-person hearings (except for Child Protection Matters as set out herein), counsel and litigants are encouraged to continue to make use of technology where appropriate. Lessons learned over the past 27 months can continue to benefit the Court, counsel and the parties.
Online video conferencing through WebEx is available for use in the courtrooms and conference rooms. Although online video conferencing through WebEx is generally permitted for use in these spaces, its use in any particular proceeding must be approved in advance by the presiding judge and is subject to the availability of resources to set up and manage the video conference. As such, apart from longer Chamber applications to be heard at a set time, WebEx is not expected to be used for Chambers.
CCTV video conferencing is also available between court houses and most correctional institutions.
Where counsel or a party to a proceeding believes that the proceeding or a portion of the proceeding can be conducted by video conference without jeopardizing the integrity of the proceeding, they are encouraged to request that the conference, hearing, witness appearance or trial be conducted by video conference. The request should be made either at a pre-trial or through the local registrar. The use of video conferencing is subject to the discretion of the judge presiding at the hearing or trial.
Audio/Video Conferencing in Criminal Matters
The Criminal Code contains specific provisions respecting remote appearances. This Directive must be read as consistent with those provisions.
The Court is amenable to the use of other technology in court proceedings provided its use does not jeopardize the integrity of the proceeding. The use of other technology for a particular case may be requested at a pre-trial or through the local registrar. The use or development of other technology for general applications may be brought to the attention of the Registrar of the Court. The use of these options is subject to the discretion of the presiding judge.
Early Consideration of the Use of Technology
Counsel or a party considering the use of technology, in whatever form, should consider their possible options in a timely fashion so that the mechanics of the proposed technology can be accommodated. Specifically, the local registrar should be notified at the earliest possible date of the potential for the use of technology (e.g., a witness testifying by video from another province).
Reliable Secure Telephone Line
It is the responsibility of the person choosing to appear by telephone to ensure they have a reliable and secure telephone line. A location where background noise is minimal should be utilized. Also, wherever possible, a land line should be used, rather than a cell phone, as a land line connection is generally of better quality.
Audio/Video Recordings and Broadcasting Prohibited
General Practice Directive #10 [GA-PD #10] prohibits the audio/video recording and broadcasting of all court proceedings, including still photography, except as otherwise authorized. For additional details, reference should be made to GA-PD #10.
PART 6 - CHILD PROTECTION APPLICATIONS
Attendance at a Child Protection Chambers Matter:
Commencing on the effective date, Child Protection Chambers will proceed as follows:
- Ministry lawyers and lawyers representing a party or child(ren) in Child Protection Chambers shall presumptively appear in person. Those who wish to appear by telephone should contact the local registrar, in advance, to seek leave from the presiding judge.
- Parents, care providers, and persons of sufficient interest wishing to participate in the hearing may attend either by telephone or in person. Those wishing to attend by telephone shall provide the phone number where they can be reached to the Ministry worker assigned to the case, or to the local registrar at the judicial centre where the hearing is scheduled (contact information can be found below). The phone number must be provided in advance of the hearing date. Those persons who choose to participate in the hearing by telephone are expected to be available at the phone number provided from the time set for the commencement of their Chambers matter until they are called. If they are not available at the phone number when called, the presiding judge may decide to proceed in their absence.
- The chief of a Band, the chief’s designate or the agency, if any, that is providing family services to the members of the child’s band, the representative of the Indigenous governing body acting on behalf of the Indigenous group, community or people to which the child belongs, as the case may be, and lawyers representing those Indigenous governing bodies, may attend either by telephone or in person. Those wishing to participate by telephone shall participate by telephone conference call as directed by the local registrar.
- Until further notice, Ministry workers or supervisors need not be in attendance during Child Protection Chamber matters, but they shall ensure that they are available by phone at the time of the hearing in the event the presiding judge determines their appearance is required.
Attachment to Notices of Protection Hearings (in Family Services Matters):
Commencing on the effective date and until further notice, all Notices of Protection hearings or any other hearing notices returnable to Chambers in Child Protection matters must have appended to the Notice or other hearing notice the following statement:
“You may attend the child protection chambers hearing either in person or by telephone. If you wish to appear by telephone, you must immediately contact the office of the local registrar at (306) (insert telephone number of local registrar) and provide your phone number where you may be reached at the time of the hearing. Alternatively, you may provide your phone number to the Ministry worker or supervisor in charge of the case. You must remain available by phone at that number on the hearing date until your matter is heard. Be aware that if you are not available at the phone number provided when the court attempts to reach you, the presiding judge may decide to proceed with the hearing in your absence.“
Time and Days for Chambers Hearings:
Until further notice, Child Protection Chamber matters in the Judicial Centre of Prince Albert shall be scheduled to be heard on a Monday, other than a statutory holiday, at 2:00 PM.
Until further notice, Child Protection Chamber matters in the Judicial Centre of Regina and the Judicial Centre of Saskatoon shall be scheduled to be heard on a Tuesday and shall be set at staggered times of 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM and 2:00 PM.
Attendance at Child Protection Pre-Trial Conferences and Summary Hearings
Commencing on the effective date, Child Protection Pre-Trial Conferences and Summary Hearings will be presumptively in person. Those who wish to appear remotely should contact the local registrar, in advance, and seek leave from the presiding judge to appear remotely.
Time and Days for Child Protection Pre-Trial Conferences and Summary Hearings
Child Protection Pre-Trial Conferences in Saskatoon and Regina will continue to be held on Wednesdays, with three pre-trials scheduled in the morning and an additional three in the afternoon. Each pre-trial will be scheduled for one hour.
Child Protection Pre-Trial Conferences in Prince Albert will continue to be held following Child Protection Chambers on Mondays, other than statutory holidays. Each pre-trial will be scheduled for one hour.
Child Protection Summary Hearings will be scheduled for one full day in accordance with Family Practice Directive #5.
1800 Central Avenue
Prince Albert SK S6V 4W7
Phone: (306) 953-3200
Fax: (306) 953-3210
2425 Victoria Avenue
Regina SK S4P 4W6
Phone: (306) 787-5377
Fax: (306) 787-7217
520 Spadina Crescent East
Saskatoon SK S7K 3G7
Phone: (306) 933-5135
Fax: (306) 975-4818
PART 7 - APPEARANCE DAY APPLICATIONS
Appearance Day applications will continue to be heard by telephone 30 minutes before the time Chambers is scheduled to commence. This means that most Appearance Day applications will be heard at 9:30 AM, except when Chambers commences at 1:30 due to a statutory holiday, in which case Appearance Day applications will be scheduled for 1:00 PM.
PART 8 - JURY TRIALS (CIVIL AND CRIMINAL)
Continuing a process that became effective on April 4, 2022, jury selection and/or the jury trial itself may, or may not, depending on the circumstances, be held at an off-site location. It is the responsibility of the judicial participants (i.e., Crown, defence, accused, prospective jurors, etc.) to report to the correct venue.
PART 9 - GENERAL GUIDELINES RESPECTING HEALTH PRECAUTIONS WHEN ATTENDING THE COURT HOUSE
All court houses remain open to the public.
Everyone attending the court house must take responsibility for their health and safety, and the health and safety of others with whom they may have contact. This means that all attendees must inform themselves and obey the recommended and mandatory Public Health Rules and Orders, including rules respecting hygiene and physical distancing.
The Ministry’s Court Services Division will determine the requirements respecting wearing masks within the court house (not including the courtroom). The presiding judge will determine the mask protocol within a courtroom.
PART 10 - UPDATES TO THE DIRECTIVE
As the circumstances of the operational challenges posed by COVID-19 change, the terms of this Directive may be amended. Please check back regularly for amendments.
Chief Justice M.D. Popescul
Court of AppealCOVID-19 Update
Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan
Notice to the Profession, the Public and the Media | February 23, 2022
Appeals and Applications to the Court
Since March 23, 2020, the Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan has heard nearly all appeals and applications electronically, either by teleconference or by videoconference. The Court wishes to advise counsel, litigants, and members of the public of the following upcoming changes.
Effective Monday, February 28, 2022, the Court will resume in-person hearings for all appeals and applications. As of that date, all hearings will occur with judges and court clerks sitting in the court room. However, in the interests of improving access to justice and promoting the open courts principle, counsel and self-represented litigants may, on an ongoing basis, choose at their individual option whether to attend their hearing in person or by WebEx video. This means that some proceedings will feature all of the lawyers and/or self represented litigants being physically present in the courtroom, some might feature only the judges and the clerk in the courtroom with all other participants appearing by Webex, and some might involve some counsel or self represented litigants being physically present and some appearing by WebEx. The Court also retains the right to decide to hear a matter remotely even if it has previously been arranged to be heard in-person.
Counsel and self-represented litigants who elect to appear remotely will not be able to file documents with the Court during the hearing. As such, in that instance, any documents that have not already been provided to the Court and that counsel or self-represented litigants wish to file must be provided to the other party(s) and the Court’s registry office at least one clear day before the hearing date.
Media and Public
The Court recognizes both the important role that members of the media play in informing the public about its work and the right of individual members of the public to attend its proceedings. As a result of the audio-visual technological upgrades to the courtrooms, both members of the public as well as accredited members of the media may listen to or observe hearings as they occur by contacting the Court’s registry office in advance for instructions on accessing hearings by WebEx.
Prohibition on Recording or Saving a Recording of an Electronic Hearing
The usual courtroom guidelines continue to apply to the audio and video recording of an electronic hearing. Participants may not record or save still images or audio or video of the hearing unless they are accredited members of the media. Accredited members of the media may use recording devices or save audio recordings for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy of their reporting but not for broadcast or publication.
The Registry Office
Until such time as the Registry Office reopens to the public, registry staff continue to offer assistance to lawyers and self-represented litigants by telephone at (306) 787-5382. Documents can be delivered to the Registry office via eCourt or by regular mail, email or fax at (306) 787-5815. For documents delivered by eCourt, automatic notification is sent to the filing party when the document is approved for filing or rejected. For documents delivered by regular mail, email or fax, Registry staff will notify litigants by telephone or email if the documents are not approved for filing. For litigants who are unable to use regular mail, email or fax and who need to file documents in person at the Registry office, there is a drop box available. Registry office staff continue to check the drop box several times each day. They will notify litigants by telephone or email if the documents received in the drop box are not approved for filing.
Notwithstanding the lifting of public health measures by the Province, the Court or presiding judge may still require that masks be worn and that physical distance be maintained in a courtroom during any proceeding.
The Court of Appeal for Saskatchewan thanks everyone for their patience and support, which has allowed the Court to maintain its regular hearing schedule throughout the last two years.
The Honourable Robert G. Richards
Chief Justice of Saskatchewan