Legal Aid Ontario lawyers represented by the Society of United Professionals praised Ontario Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve’s decision to shift almost all court appearances in the province to remote participation methods such as tele- or video-conferencing. In her directive, the Chief Justice requires strict physical distancing measures to be used for the few appearances that must be made in person.
On March 19, the Society of United Professionals called for justice system leaders to close brick and mortar courthouses, and fully shift to remote processes, due to the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
“Keeping our courts as empty as possible will save lives, but it must be done in a way which preserves the administration of justice and Ontarians’ Charter rights,” said Dana Fisher, Vice President of the Society of United Professionals’ Legal Aid Lawyers. “The Society of United Professionals stands ready to move quickly and co-operatively to address any operational issues that arise as we shift to remote appearances.”
“In addition to the Chief Justice, I want to recognize some of the many justice system participants who also helped bring about this decision, including Ministry of the Attorney General, Legal Aid Ontario management, Criminal Lawyers Association, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Justices of the Peace, Ontario Crown Attorneys Association, and the judiciary,” Fisher continued.
Legal Aid Ontario management recognized the COVID-19 health and safety risks inside courthouses on March 19 and directed all of their court-based employees to work remotely, including duty counsel lawyers. The move to increase the volume of remote access court appearances will require all justice system stakeholders to adapt quickly to new practices. The Society of United Professionals is committed to working with Ministry of the Attorney General, Legal Aid Ontario management and other stakeholders to ensure Ontarians continue to have access to justice at all times.
“From our colleagues in the private defense bar to Crown Attorneys and court staff to the judiciary, we offer our sincere appreciation for everyone who has kept the wheels of justice in motion at this most challenging time,” said Fisher.
Adam Chaleff, firstname.lastname@example.org