A shutdown of non-essential economic activity in Quebec, originally scheduled to end in mid-April, has been extended to May 4.
Here are the latest legal developments affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Barreau du Québec has published a 10-page professional practice guide for civil and family lawyers to help them during the Covid-19 outbreak. It’s in French only, and can be downloaded here.
The Quebec legal society has also issued guidelines detailing the professional obligations of lawyers during the pandemic. It can be read here.
The chair of Quebec’s disciplinary council of presidents has rescinded permission it gave on April 3 to use the controversial popular video conferencing application Zoom in disciplinary hearings.
As of the beginning of May, video conferencing can be used by parties who consent to hearings on the guilt or sanction with joint recommendations, on the guilt or sanction with limited debate on the sanction or on the sanction itself.
Quebec Court of Appeal
The Quebec Court of Appeal launched an electronic platform pilot project on April 9. The first phase of its future digital court registry office is initially available only for appeals in civil matters. The Court is working to gradually expand e-filings to include other pleadings.
Use of the new digital Court office is optional and complements the usual way of appealing a matter, by filing paper documents.
The appeal court has issued a practice direction. It can be viewed or downloaded here.
The new Digital Office of the Court of Appeal can be accessed here.
Hearings before the Court of Appeal have been postponed until May 15, 2020. As a result, all appeals on the merits scheduled on the rolls for the weeks of May 4 to 8 and May 11 to 15, 2020 are adjourned to an indeterminate date.
Parties can nevertheless still have the appeal court decide certain appeals without a hearing, as per article 384 of the Code of Civil Procedure, s. 72 of the Rules of the Court of Appeal of Quebec in Criminal Matters or s. 67 of the Regulation of the Court of Appeal of Quebec in Penal Matters.
Parties can submit a joint request to the appeal court, and one of its judges will then decide whether it’s appropriate to proceed in this manner.
Also, motions scheduled on the roll for May 4 or 11, 2020 will not proceed, unless the Court office sends a notice indicating that the matter will be heard by “technological means.”
Quebec Superior Court
Quebec Superior is scaling back on its operations from March 16 to May 31, 2020, announced Associate Chief Justice Catherine La Rosa in a new communiqué on April 9.
Only urgent hearings will continue to be held. Here is a practice direction issued by Superior Court. Note that parties are asked to email and not go to courthouses to file.
Quebec Superior Court is thinking about widening the scope of matters it will hear. It expects to issue a new communiqué this week.
In the meantime, some courthouses in the province may be temporarily closed. Hearings should be conducted by telephone conference or videoconference, and requests for postponements will be suspended until the provincial emergency decree has ended, added Justice La Rosa.
Here’s another communiqué describing procedures to follow in family and civil matters for the Montreal district of Quebec’s Superior Court.
And here is where the practice directives for the Montreal and Quebec judicial districts of the Quebec Superior Court can be read.
Court of Quebec
New guidelines have been published by the Court of Quebec, district of Laval, Laurentides, Lanaudière, and Labelle (Mont Laurier.)
Here’s the communiqué.
Quebec administrative tribunals
Quebec administrative tribunals has adjourned all hearings until May 1, except for those deemed to be urgent.
It is open to holding some hearings, with the consent of parties, through telephone conferencing or videoconferencing.
Notaries are allowed, as of April 1, to sign notarized documents remotely. This is not compulsory and notaries are free to use the technology or not. More information about the procedures and protocols issued by the Chambre des notaires du Québec can be read here.
Here is the story I wrote for The Lawyer’s Daily about how well this is turning out. Hint: There are hiccups and it’s proving to be quite a challenge.
The payment of judicial fees in urgent matters for parties who cannot pay remotely, announced the Quebec Ministry of Justice.
Also, courts now enjoy concurrent jurisdiction in all Québec judicial districts. Parties may file proceedings in a judicial district other than the district hearing their matter, and matters may be transferred to another judicial district for trial.