COVID-19 and Australian courts and legal bodies updates: 16 June

Here are the latest updates from Australia’s courts and legal bodies as the coronavirus pandemic continues

COVID-19 and Australian courts and legal bodies updates: 16 June

Jury trials are resuming across the country as restrictions continue to lift. The latest protocols are as follows.

Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia

In-person hearings resumed, under strict social distancing and health guidelines, beginning yesterday for proceedings that cannot feasibly take place electronically.

“Whilst the courts have been able to conduct over 80% of their work via electronic hearings since March 2020, it is recognised that there are some proceedings that require a hearing in person. Given the health concerns and social distancing requirements, a full utilisation of courtrooms may take some months as restrictions are eased,” said Will Alstergren, chief justice of the Family Court and chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court.

The courts released a protocol for face-to-face hearings here.

New South Wales

Supreme Court

Jury trials are set to resume on 29 June, while civil matters were being heard in person beginning 1 June.

The court released a new protocol for court operations here.

District Court

The court issued a note guiding lawyers on the jury empanelment process at the Downing Centre (Sydney) court for when jury trials resume.

Local Court

In a memorandum dated 5 June, Chief Magistrate Judge Graeme Henson AM outlined the re-listing process for domestic violence cases and general matters where the proceedings have been abandoned at country locations.

The memorandum also discusses arrangements for large court complexes and future listing arrangements.

Victoria 

Supreme Court

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson announced yesterday that criminal jury trials in Melbourne would gradually resume effective 20 July in both the Supreme Court and the County Court. An FAQ page has been launched here.

Magistrates Court

Chief Magistrate Lisa Hannan issued a practice direction that would change the process of entering surety to bail in line with COVID-19 regulations. The new practice direction took effect on 11 June.

County Court

The court outlined its administrative management process for criminal cases.

Children’s Court

The court’s protocols for the listing and hearing of intervention order matters are outlined in the latest practice direction.

Queensland  

Supreme Court

Sittings for the admission of lawyers to the profession will take place in person in Brisbane (from 27 July onwards), Townsville (at the listed time), and Rockhampton.

In Cairns, admissions may take place either in person or via audio-visual link (AVL).

Magistrates Court

The court began stage 2 of its COVID-19 transition plan last Friday, which included an increased capacity to handle matters. Telephone and AVL will still be utilised in this stage, and on 10 July, listings and local arrangements will be reviewed in stage 3.

The Brisbane Magistrates Court Remand List began accepting new matters for listing beginning yesterday.

Land Court

Effective yesterday, the court opened its registry counters to the public, although electronic means of filing documents and making enquiries are still encouraged.

Mediations, preliminary conferences, case management conferences, expert meetings and directions hearings or reviews will continue to take place via videoconference or teleconference unless otherwise directed, and social distancing measures will be implemented in face-to-face hearings.

Western Australia

Magistrates Court

Normal court listings will recommence beginning 2 June.

South Australia

Magistrates Court

Beginning yesterday, directions hearings for general jurisdiction actions took place either by phone or email. Minor civil action proceedings and mediations will be conducted in person.

The court outlined its protocols here.

Tasmania

Supreme Court

The court recommenced in-person criminal proceedings related to pleas, directions hearings, legal argument, bail applications, disputed facts hearings, and pre-recorded evidence, yesterday in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie.

Jury trials will resume on 21 July in Hobart and Launceston. Matters listed in Burnie may be transferred to Launceston. Civil trial sittings will recommence in Hobart on 20 July and in Launceston in August.

Northern Territory

Local Court

Non-custody proceedings will recommence beginning 1 July, and circuit courts will be able to hear matters.

The court will retain operational changes such as e-filing and the hearing of bail applications on country. Consent applications will proceed in chambers. 

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