COVID-19 and NZ courts updates: 18 May

As the COVID-19 pandemic alert level falls to 2, courts are updating their protocols

COVID-19 and NZ courts updates: 18 May

With alert level 2 coming into effect today, New Zealand courts have issued statements on court protocol changes under the eased restrictions.

Supreme Court

Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann announced on Wednesday that hearings will be conducted in person except in cases wherein a party may be prevented from doing so either due to health concerns or travel difficulty. In such cases, the remote hearings protocol put forth in April will be followed.

The courtroom will be thoroughly sanitised after each use, and documents must still be filed via email or post. Social distancing measures will be strictly enforced.

Court of Appeal

President Stephen Kós declared on Wednesday that proceedings will be conducted in person, although parties may opt to participate via approved audio-visual link (AVL).

Documents may be filed at the registry in person subject to sanitary requirements. Filing fees that were not paid during alert levels 3 and 4 must now be settled.

High Court

Criminal jury trials are still on hold until 3 August, according to Chief High Court Judge Geoffrey Venning. Judges will determine the manner in which hearings should take place, whether in person or with the use of remote technology.

List judges will aim to handle matters either on the papers or by teleconference, while circuit hearings without witnesses will typically be held remotely. Documents may be filed at the court.

District Court

Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu issued a statement saying that the court is looking to gradually extend services again, such as through the reopening of front-facing counters. Strict health and sanitation guidelines will continue to be in place, and remote technology will still be used where practicable to limit in-person attendance.

However, jury trials will remain suspended until 31 July. Specific protocols for the various divisions, the Youth Court and the Family Court are listed here.

Employment Court

Chief Judge Christina Inglis announced that in-person hearings may be held if matters cannot reasonably be dealt with on the papers or through remote participation, if such a hearing can take place safely, and if the judge rules it to be appropriate.

Court registries will be open for the filing of documents, and filing fees incurred during alert levels 3 and 4 must be paid.

The court’s hygiene measures and other protocols are listed here.

Māori Land Court

While most matters will still be dealt with on the papers, via AVL or by teleconference, some in-person proceedings will recommence, and the district offices will be opened for limited services.

In-person court advisory services remain suspended. Other protocols set down by Chief Judge Wilson Isaac are enumerated here.

Waitangi Tribunal

Remote appearances will remain the preferred method of conducting hearings, as under alert 3. Matters will be determined on the papers as much as practicable.

Documents may not be filed in person, only by email or post. Guidelines for appearing at court are outlined here.

Environment Court

The court is looking to begin reducing its backlog, as cases that were adjourned for hearing will now be processed, either remotely or in person. However, the registry counters will remain closed to the public, and staff will be working on a limited capacity. The features to be introduced for in-person court hearings are listed here.

Principal Environment Judge Laurie Newhook’s blanket waiver suspending the need to file documents on paper is still in effect, and the court is looking to make it permanent.

Coroners Court

Inquest hearings and other proceedings are to be considered on a case-by-case basis, and may take place in person or via remote technology. Sanitation and social distancing guidelines will be implemented.

Court Martial and Summary Appeal Court

The court will be processing all proceedings, petitions and applications. Hearings will take place via AVL or be determined on the papers as much as practicable; in person appearances will only be permitted if remote technology facilities are unavailable or deemed inappropriate.

Guidelines for in-person proceedings are provided here, and matters should be filed electronically.

Ministry of Justice

The ministry has updated its list of operational courts here, as well as protocols for court operations here.

Guidelines for court users are listed here, while those for legal practitioners and service providers are provided here.

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