Thomson Reuters Institute Publishes Report on the Impacts of the Pandemic on State and Local Courts

The Thomson Reuters Institute has published findings from a study on “The Impacts of the Pandemic on State and Local Courts” in the U.S. The study includes responses from over 200 state, county and municipal court professionals across the U.S., including judges and chief justices, magistrates, court administrators, attorneys, and clerks of the court. The study explores successes and challenges of shifts to remote hearings; the extent to which the pandemic has created or worsened existing court backlogs; court technology gaps and solutions; and the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 era on court hearings.

“The Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on State and Local Courts Study 2021: A Look at Remote Hearings, Legal Technology, Case Backlogs and Access to Justice” is available online here: https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/content/dam/ewp-m/documents/legal/en/pdf/white-papers/covid-court-report_final.pdf.

For additional information about this study, visit the Thomson Reuters website here: https://www.thomsonreuters.com/en-us/posts/legal/pandemic-impact-courts-report-2021/.

Alberta Law Foundation Publishes Report on Remote Legal Services for Low-Income Albertans

The Alberta Law Foundation has published a report that examines challenges and best practices for the remote delivery of legal services to low-income Albertans. The report explores several aspects of legal service delivery as relate specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic, although the focus is more generally on remote legal service delivery before the pandemic and beyond the pandemic.

The Remote Legal Services to Low-Income Albertans – Challenges and Best Practices report discusses remote legal service delivery models and tools and addresses impacts of remote service delivery for specific groups. The discussion of remote legal service delivery is organized around the following topics:

  • Silver Linings of the Transition to Remote Legal Service Delivery
  • Challenges with Remote Legal Service Delivery
  • Service Modifications in Response to the Pandemic
  • Literature Review about Best Practices
  • Innovative Projects and Hubs in the U.S. and Canada
  • Technology Tools and Resources

The final report also includes resources for further information.

The Alberta Law Foundation’s Remote Legal Services to Low-Income Albertans – Challenges and Best Practices report was written by Flora Stevenson and is available online in English here: https://www.albertalawfoundation.org/news/new-report-remote-legal-services-to-low-income-albertans-challenges-and-best-practices.

Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court Mark 50 Years

This year marks 50 years since the founding of Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. To recognize the 50th anniversary, the Courts held a virtual celebration earlier this summer, on June 1st. During the commemoration ceremony, Federal Court Chief Justice, Paul Crampton noted that the Federal Courts’ founding was grounded in a desire for a “just society” and the notion that the Federal Court could play an important role in realizing that goal.

To mark 50 years, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court will also be publishing a book that showcases past work of the Courts and goals for the future. There will be a formal, virtual book launch on October 1, 2021 and 3 follow-up webinars on October 29th (Immigration), November 26th (National Security), and December 10th (Intellectual Property). To register for these events, visit: https://www.nji-inm.ca/index.cfm/publications/public-resources/fca-fc-50th-anniversary-events/.

A recording of the commemoration ceremony is available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS46flYYgBg.

Chief Justice Paul Crampton’s speech is available on the Federal Court website: https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/pages/media/speeches#cont.

Details in the post are from the Federal Court’s announcement published here: https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/Content/assets/pdf/base/2021-07-30-50th-anniversary-video.pdf.

Family Law Cases in Canada’s Civil Courts Decline by 7% for 2019-2020

Data from the recently published 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey reveals a 7% year-over-year decline in family law cases in Canada. This decrease represents the largest decline in family law cases in 5 years. The data is for the period from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 and, in large part, does not reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the justice system, including from court closures and stay-at-home orders. It is anticipated that there will be an even greater decline in family law cases in the 2020-2021 Civil Court Survey.

Of the more than 228,000 active family law cases during the 2019-2020 period, 47% were divorce cases. Of this number, almost three quarters involved requests for a divorce judgement to legally end a marriage; the remainder involved matters related to custody, access, and support. Notably, the data also shows that custody and access family law court cases during this period reported more activity than non-family cases, which the report on the data suggests may be “an indication of the amount of time and court resources they require”.

The Juristat report on family law cases in civil courts for 2019-2020 and the 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey data are available on the Statistics Canada website here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-eng.htm.

« Profil des causes de droit de la famille au Canada, 2019-2020 » est disponible en français ici : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-fra.htm.

Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario Report Examines the Impacts of Shift to Online Hearings

A new report by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) examines how the move from in-person to online hearings is impacting low-income tenants across Ontario. “Digital Evictions: The Landlord and Tenant Board’s Experiment in Online Hearings” discusses the challenges and consequences for tenants who do not have access to reliable internet and phone services for their hearings. The report also indicates that the shift to online hearings may have disproportionate adverse impacts for rural and remote households, tenants whose first language is not English, people with mental health issues, and people who are illiterate or innumerate.

The ACTO report explores data from several sources, including surveys of digital hearings that were carried out across Ontario from March to May, 2021 and reveals several drawbacks to participation in a virtual hearing by video or phone. The report also highlights ACTO’s concern that the digital first approach to hearings will continue post pandemic. “Digital Evictions: The Landlord and Tenant Board’s Experiment in Online Hearings” is available on the ACTO website here: https://www.acto.ca/production/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Digital-Evictions-ACTO.pdf.

Advocates’ Society Report Discusses the Future of Oral Advocacy in Canada

“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada” is a new report by the Advocates’ Society that discusses the future of oral advocacy in Canada’s justice system. The report also examines the history behind the right to be heard, considerations for the mode of hearing, and the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the justice system.

The Right to be Heard report is the culmination of months of research and consultations with judges, advocates in different practice areas, justice system participants, advocacy groups and others. This initative was led by the Modern Advocacy Task Force, which was established in spring 2020 “to make recommendations with respect to the future of oral advocacy in the Canadian justice system”.

This Final Report of the Modern Advocacy Task Force recognizes improvements made possible by modern technology during the pandemic but cautions that such changes to the justice system “should not be mistaken as a panacea for the grave challenges of access to justice, nor as an adequate replacement for in-person justice in all, or even most, cases.” 

According to the report, there are four core principles that lay the foundation for the Task Force’s recommendations:

  • The open court principle;
  • The imperative of access to justice;
  • The integrity of the court process; and
  • The principle of proportionality

In discussing the significance of the report, former Chief Justice of Canada and member of the Modern Advocacy Advisory Group, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin noted that the report “offers a timely examination of the fundamental role of court advocacy in securing justice and how it can be preserved in a digital world.”

“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada”, published by the Advocates’ Society, is available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/tld-documents.llnassets.com/0027000/27521/the_right_to_be_heard_the_future_of_advocacy_in_canada_digital.pdf.

Canadian Judicial Council Publishes Modernized Ethical Principles for Judges

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has released an updated version of Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare. For more than twenty years, this publication has provided guidance on a range of questions within the judicial community.

While this new publication maintains a format similar to the 1998 volume, it raises questions about present day subjects such as the digital literacy of judges and addresses a range of important issues such as the need to be alert to “the history, experience and circumstances of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and to the diversity of cultures and communities that make up this country”. In discussing the importance of this new iteration of Ethical Principles for Judges, Chief Justice of Canada and Canadian Judicial Council Chairperson, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, noted that, “[t]hese revised principles explore new and emerging issues relevant to our modern times”.

Ethical Principles for Judges includes sections on:

  • Judicial Independence;
  • Integrity and Respect;
  • Diligence and Competence;
  • Equality; and
  • Impartiality

Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare, published by the Canadian Judicial Council, is available in English and French here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/sites/default/files/documents/2021/CJC_20-301_Ethical-Principles_Bilingual%20FINAL.pdf.

British Columbia Law Institute Reports Recommend Changes to B.C.’s Child Protection Legislation

The British Columbia Law Institute’s (BCLI’s) Child Protection Project Committee has published two reports aimed at: (i) providing recommendations for reforms to the child protection framework; and (ii) reviewing legislation related to youth aging into the community.

The “Report on Modernizing the Child, Family and Community Service Act” provides an extensive review of British Columbia’s child protection statute, offering 39 recommendations for reform and draft sample legislation. The “Study Paper on Youth Aging into the Community” provides guidance on transition planning, relationship-based support, education support, and housing support for young people who were under care of the child protection system and have reached the age of maturity. The “Report on Modernizing the Child, Family and Community Service Act” and the “Study Paper on Youth Aging in the Community” bring the work of the Child Protection Project Committee to a close.

“Report on Modernizing the Child, Family and Community Service Act” is available on the BCLI website here: https://www.bcli.org/publication/92-report-on-modernizing-the-child-family-and-community-service-act.

“Study Paper on Youth Aging into the Community” published by the British Columbia Law Institute is available here: https://www.bcli.org/publication/study-paper-on-youth-aging-into-the-community.

A Case Study on People-Centered Access to Justice from Argentina

A report by the former National Director of Access to Justice for the national Ministry of Justice of Argentina is providing insight into the development of a network of people-centered justice service centers across Argentina. “Putting People at the Center: A Case Study on Access to Justice Centers” offers a discussion of the objectives, strategic principles and operational tools guiding this national access to justice initiative in Argentina.

The report highlights external, political-institutional, and procedural considerations for designing a large-scale access to justice program. It also details the challenges and benefits of implementing a large-scale public program devoted to people-centered justice, and provides an experiential perspective that can serve as a guidepost for similar initiatives.

“Putting People at the Center: A Case Study on Access to Justice Centers in Argentina” by Gustavo Maurino is available in English here: https://530cfd94-d934-468b-a1c7-c67a84734064.filesusr.com/ugd/6c192f_2bfcbb9af90d423083933789ab4b433c.pdf.

More information about this initiative is available from this article by the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies: https://medium.com/sdg16plus/people-centered-justice-matters-a-case-study-in-argentina-df82e5e268f9 .

Parliamentary Committee Report Explores the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Immigration

“Immigration in the Time of COVID-19: Issues and Challenges” is a new report from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM). The report explores the impacts of the pandemic on Canada’s immigration system, with particular emphasis on family reunification, the parent and grandparent program, and impacts for international students and foreign nationals with expired documents. The parliamentary committee report includes 38 recommendations for consideration by the House of Commons, including:

  • A fully digitized system that also maintains the option for paper applications (Recommendation 1);
  • Increasing financial supports for settlement services to facilitate digital literacy and access to digital tools (Recommendation 3);
  • Implementing measures to permit permanent residents with expired permanent resident cards who have faced renewal issues because of the pandemic to return to Canada (Recommendation 4); and,
  • Prioritizing the processing of family reunification applications in cases where family members are protected persons (Recommendation 8).

The CIMM Committee report is available in English here:  https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/CIMM/report-5/. The report is available in French here: https://www.noscommunes.ca/DocumentViewer/fr/43-2/CIMM/rapport-5.