What is Virtual Court?

 

These are fully remote or hearings with remote aspects by telephone, videoconferencing or a combination of the two technologies. Virtual court options allow the courts to hear more matters during the pandemic and are a helpful option when courtrooms are too small to hold in-person hearings and still respect physical distancing.

 

What technology do the Nova Scotia Courts use?

 

When virtual court was first piloted in the early months of the pandemic, the Nova Scotia Courts used Skype for Business. The platform was a secure option supported by Nova Scotia Digital Services and was already available to all judges and court staff through the province’s existing Microsoft software suite.

 

The Nova Scotia Courts are now using Microsoft Teams for virtual court proceedings. Counsel, self-represented individuals and others who anticipate being involved with virtual court proceedings are encouraged to prepare accordingly. That includes installing the free Microsoft Teams software on your desktop and mobile devices.

 

 

Counsel and others are encouraged to review the Teams training materials developed by Microsoft, available online here.

 

Criteria for Virtual Court Hearings

 

Court of Appeal

 

The Court of Appeal has expanded the types of matters that can be heard remotely by telephone and video. Accordingly, the Court developed a PRACTICE DIRECTIVE >> outlining how hearings will be held, including etiquette and civility in remote hearings.

 

The panel of judges assigned to each appeal will review the materials filed with the court and decide the format in which the appeal will be heard. Among other things, the panel will consider:

 

~ The nature of the case;

~ The complexity of the case;

~ Whether there are liberty interests at stake; and

~ Whether the appeal relates to a matter of public interest.

 

Supreme Court (General Division)

 

The Supreme Court began offering virtual court hearings and settlement conferences in May for some non-urgent civil matters at the Law Courts in Halifax. The General Division has since expanded virtual court to include matters with documentary exhibits and viva voce evidence, including cross-examination. That means virtual court is available for civil and criminal matters in all locations, subject to the following criteria, or as a judge may otherwise order:

 

~ All parties are represented by counsel;
~ The matter can be dealt with in three days or less; and
~ All parties consent.

 

Supreme Court (Family Division)

 

Given the unique nature of family law matters, and the special access to justice challenges faced by many families, the Supreme Court (Family Division) has adopted a disciplined approach to the use of technology. The Court therefore offers virtual options as deemed appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

 

Provincial Court

 

During the suspension of in-person proceedings, the Provincial Court is using telephone and videoconferencing to hear many types of matters, including bail hearings, pretrial applications, some sentencing hearings and judge's decisions. The Dartmouth Wellness Court and the Domestic Violence Court programs are also being held fully virtually on Microsoft Teams.

 

How do I request a virtual court hearing?

 

Counsel who have a matter that meets the eligibility criteria and they feel would be appropriate for a virtual hearing should contact their local scheduler or the presiding Judge in their case.

 

Counsel interested in learning more about virtual court hearings are encouraged to review Best Practices for Remote Hearings, developed by the E-Hearings Task Force in Ontario.

 

Cowan Internship Project - Listening and Responding to the Future of Virtual Court

 

Every year, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal supports a summer internship project for a law student to research a topic of the Court's choosing. In 2022, the Cowan intern looked at the future of virtual courts in Canada in a post-pandemic era.

 

 

2022 COWAN REPORT - LISTENING AND RESPONDING TO THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL COURT >>

 

 

Virtual Court Notices

 

July 15 PARTICIPATING IN VIRTUAL COURT PROCEEDINGS IN THE SUPREME COURT >>
April 29 NOVA SCOTIA COURTS MOVING TO MICROSOFT TEAMS FOR VIRTUAL COURT >>
March 10 CONDUCT, DECORUM & EXPECTATIONS FOR VIRTUAL COURT >>
Feb. 11 CHANGES COMING TO VIRTUAL COURT PROCEEDINGS IN NOVA SCOTIA >>
2020
Nov. 9 UPDATED PRACTICE DIRECTIVE FOR APPEAL HEARINGS DURING THE PANDEMIC >>
July 13 VIRTUAL COURT OPEN HOUSE >>
July 7 PREPARING FOR VIRTUAL HEARINGS IN NSSC >>
June 10 SUPREME COURT EXPANDS VIRTUAL COURT >>
May 22 BEST PRACTICES FOR VIRTUAL COURT HEARINGS >>
May 7 VIRTUAL HEARINGS, SETTLEMENT CONFERENCES >>