“We should not be going back.”
— Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick Myers
And with that statement, Justice Myers made it clear, early on in the pandemic, what to expect in Ontario’s justice system as we move forward in the new COVID reality.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, industries across Canada and around the globe have had to change the way they do business. The justice system has been no different.
Conducting trials, pre-trials, discoveries, motions, and more via Zoom and other video conferencing methods has become the norm. This was necessitated in order to keep everyone safe and to protect public health.
But an interesting curiosity occurred along the way… Lawyers, judges and clients alike came to realize many other new benefits from the video conferencing system as opposed to in-person appearances: it was convenient, time-efficient, cost-effective, and improved upon the development of access to justice by allowing more cases to move forward with expediency.
Given all of these benefits, it’s highly unlikely that the full-flowing video streams will be reduced to a trickle anytime soon.
Video Technology Brings Efficiency to Ontario’s Justice System
In a May 4, 2020 decision, Justice Myers rejected a plaintiff’s objections to a video conference mini-trial. “In my view, in 2020, use of readily available technology is part of the basic skillset required of civil litigators and courts. This is not new and, unlike the pandemic, did not arise on the sudden,” wrote Myers.
Justice Myers was referring to Rule 1.08 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which has been in effect since 1999, which states:
“If facilities for a telephone or video conference are available at the court or are provided by a party, all or part of any of the following proceedings or steps in a proceeding may be heard or conducted by telephone or video conference as permitted by subrules (2) to (5).”
Those “proceedings” refer to trials, pre-trials, motions, appeals, and more.
Bottom line, as Justice Myers said, “we now have the technological ability to communicate remotely effectively. Using it is more efficient and far less costly than personal attendance.”
Mr. Brian A. Horowitz, a personal injury lawyer with nearly 35 years of experience, illuminates the faulty and wasteful ways of pre-pandemic procedures.
“Looking back, it’s remarkable how inefficient and needlessly costly the old system was,” said Mr. Horowitz. “It’s not that long ago that lawyers had to gown up and attend court in person to merely schedule a trial. I would be out of the office for an entire morning to speak to a matter for 30 seconds”.
Zoom Proceedings Are the Way of the Future
Mr. Horowitz continued to detail the benefits afforded by video conferencing. “Eliminating the travel time has been a revelation and a huge cost savings. In addition, I have found virtual discoveries and mediations equally as effective as the old in-person versions we all grew accustomed to.”
For those who argue against the Zoom proceedings, with worries such as difficulty in assessing a witness’s demeanour, or allowing some to possibly engage in “sleight of hand” off-screen, their case is losing steam as we continue to march forward into the Covid era.
The Ontario justice system has evolved out of necessity, and it would appear that it will continue to progress into the future, out of common sense.
“As lawyers and their clients become even more familiar with the technology,” says Mr. Horowitz, “it’s hard to imagine a good reason to ever go back.”
If you have a serious personal injury case, call Horowitz Injury Law immediately for a free consultation. We have almost 35 years of ensuring that our clients get the compensation they deserve. 416-925-4100.