Whether you have a legal file or proceeding at the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court or the Provincial Court, the ongoing coronavirus covid19 pandemic stay at home lock down with social distancing measures will definitely impact your strategy.
In this article we got the chance to speak with Marissa Ealey from Paperclip Law who facilitated answers from Elizabeth Mah about different aspects of the legal environment in British Columbia during this time. It’s a good read and will fill in the gaps with some questions that you might be having. Their legal firm is located in Lower Lonsdale North Vancouver.
How has the closure or slowdown of the courthouses in British Columbia impacted legal proceedings?
There have been some impacts, but the courthouse remains open, ensuring that all employees and visitors maintain good hygiene and abide by social distancing rules. Lawyers, parties, and witnesses who are ill, in self-isolation, or in quarantine are advised to notify the courts as soon as possible. In regards to criminal proceedings, people without lawyers should contact the Crown prosecutor assigned to their case. People without lawyers for other types of proceedings should contact the court registry where their appearance is scheduled.
The courtrooms are remaining open for now, but the province has advised that people with symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to follow the BC Centre for Disease Control’s advice and not come to court to watch. In some cases, a judge may permit a lawyer or party who is unable to attend in person to appear by telephone. But if you are scheduled to be in court and fail to attend without notifying someone, an order can be made in your absence.
That being said, impact is entirely dependent on the case at hand. If you have a case that you feel will be affected, contact your lawyer or your local courthouse with any questions you may have as information is changing daily.
What are you recommending for your clients who have potential legal files to move forward with?
Clients who want to start legal actions can still do so through e-filing or mail (for things such as probate applications). Many clients are also tapped for cash right now, so considering other options for resolving disputes rather than taking legal action given the delays and circumstances. Legal to-do’s that are more long term are still available in business, estate planning, and buying and selling real estate. There is some more creative ways to get these things done and to protect against the risks of proceeding at this time, so an even more important time to consult a lawyer.
What is the formal information coming from the Provincial Court of BC in terms of Covid19?
As of March 19, 2020, the courts have suspended all regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. But because people still need to have access to justice during this pandemic, there are options for parties to have their matter head by teleconference or in writing by contacting the courthouse. They are also trying to obtain more funding for better technology to allow for a higher volume for more hearings. They are also accepting e-filings.
How has your office been impacted by the coronavirus in terms of staff workflow?
We have been busy helping clients with estate planning, and long-term planning for our business clients. Most of our days are filled with answering questions about layoffs and employees, and also with negotiating leases for clients as well to find some relief while they are closed or at reduced hours.
Lastly, how are you spending your personal time currently in terms of activities?
I’m fielding emails and doing porch signings in between playdough, baking, gardening, and dollhouse sessions with my two young daughters. I’m trying to stay present during this time to see one day at a time and to take in this time that may never happen again, or may happen annually or for a long-time. With so much uncertainty, there’s not much to be able to plan ahead and it’s a nice feeling. The pressure of rushing around has lifted and I’m slowly adapting to a new routine for our family and community.
For more information you can read this article about Paperclip Law.