Amid COVID-19 restrictions, courts must be "optimistic, rather than pessimistic," a high court justice says
A complex commercial litigation appears set to make history in the UK because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Linklaters has confirmed to The Law Society Gazette that it is representing a financial institution in a trial worth more than US$500m, which could be heard in its entirety online and livestreamed on YouTube.
The trial was initially expected to last seven days in London’s commercial court and feature several expert witnesses, some even coming from overseas. The Magic Circle firm said that Sir Nigel Teare, judge of the High Court of England and Wales, “gave short shrift to the argument that there would likely be insurmountable logistical and technical difficulties” hindering the trial to proceed.
The Gazette said that preparations are now being made to allow barristers, solicitors, and the judge to work remotely. Teare said that the court must have an “optimistic, rather than pessimistic, attitude.”
The justice did acknowledge, however, that there may be technical issues during the trial. He also said that counsel involved may be hit by COVID-19 and be unable to appear for a period of time. He said, however, that remote hearing should be utilised and problems should be dealt with as they arise.
According to Linklaters, parties have agreed to set up a “virtual court room” that enables participants to see and hear each other via audio-video link. Testing of the technology needed to enable a remote trial have been successful, the firm said. It also said that “virtual Post-It notes” and “virtual break-out rooms” will be established.
Journalists and the public will be able to follow the proceedings if the plan to livestream the trial via YouTube materialises.