Hamilton courts slowed by coronavirus pandemic

News Apr 20, 2020 by Mark Newman Hamilton Mountain News

The desire for physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has put most of Hamilton’s courts and tribunals on hold.

The Superior Court of Justice suspended most of their regular operations as of March 17 and matters scheduled after March 17 have been adjourned into June and July,” said Audrey Doxtdator, associate lawyer with Porter Law Office in Hamilton.

“The court is still hearing urgent matters such as any request for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent. If a matter is deemed urgent, the court will schedule a hearing via teleconference or video conference.”

The Superior Court oversees criminalcivil, and family cases.

Doxtdator noted the courts are accepting the filing of materials by email which removes the need for anyone to have to attend the downtown courthouse in person.

“The courts and counsel are doing their best to help self-represented litigants stay updated with the changes,” she said. “The courts have done a great job in adapting to these big changes in a short period of time.”

Doxtdator noted all civil lawsuits have been suspended unless they are also considered urgent such as time-sensitive issues that have financial repercussions.

“To preserve limitations periods under the Limitations Act, the courts have advised to file small claims and civil claims through their online portals,” Doxtdator said.

“I can understand the anxiety litigants have as their court case is in limbo, but everyone is doing the best they can to preserve litigation while under the government’s pandemic protocols.

"We have to be patient and keep learning new ways of doing things.”

Doxtdator said routine legal matters like wills are still getting done, but without a visit to the lawyer’s office as all client contact is now being done by Zoom, text message or teleconference.

“Lawyers can draft wills and powers of attorney by video conference for the duration of the emergency,” she said.

“An order has been made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act permitting virtual witnessing for wills and powers of attorney, so long as at least one person who is providing the service as a witness is a licensee pursuant to the Law Society Act.”

The pandemic is also affecting people who have landlord/tenant or Ontario Disability Support Program issues.

Mike Ollier, director of Legal Services at the nonprofit Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, noted prior to the pandemic the Landlord and Tenant Board was hearing complaints at the Ellen Fairclough Building on King Street West.

“They’re not doing that now,” Ollier said. “Most of those hearings have been postponed until further notice.”

Ollier said only matters such as an illegal lockout or a serious or violent incident involving a tenant that requires immediate attention are being heard.

“Everything else like maintenance is not being dealt with,” he said. “We hope people will continue to talk to each other and behave reasonably.”

Ollier noted about 70 per cent of the 100 to 150 calls they get each week for service are landlord and tenant related. In 2019 the legal clinic officials represented tenants in 5,041 cases.  

For people seeking benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program, Ollier said the social benefits tribunal that normally holds in-person hearings has moved to teleconference hearings.

“It has its problems,” said Ollier, who noted not all of their clients have phones or a quiet place where they can take part in a teleconference.

Ollier said while the board has indicated it will look at alternatives to phone hearings, folks who don’t have a phone are seeing their hearings postponed which forces them to try to find a phone or wait until in-person hearings are rescheduled and there is no indication when that might happen.

He said the legal clinic is trying to reduce the need for hearings by getting their clients to submit as much information as they can in advance to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic can be reached via hamiltonjustice.ca or 905-527-4572

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is also expected to affect Legal Aid Ontario, which finances the Hamilton legal clinic.

Ollier noted legal aid last year saw revenue of about $500 million, mostly from the province, but about $80 million came from the trust accounts of legal practitioners who remit the interest to the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Ollier said with dropping interest rates that remittance might fall by $50 million or $60 million this year.

He added the province has already cut Legal Aid by $133 million and community legal clinics like theirs are concerned how they will be able to cover increasing costs like rent if the money they rely on continues to decline.

Hamilton courts slowed by coronavirus pandemic

Only urgent matters are being heard, with most other cases put off until summer

News Apr 20, 2020 by Mark Newman Hamilton Mountain News

The desire for physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has put most of Hamilton’s courts and tribunals on hold.

The Superior Court of Justice suspended most of their regular operations as of March 17 and matters scheduled after March 17 have been adjourned into June and July,” said Audrey Doxtdator, associate lawyer with Porter Law Office in Hamilton.

“The court is still hearing urgent matters such as any request for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent. If a matter is deemed urgent, the court will schedule a hearing via teleconference or video conference.”

The Superior Court oversees criminalcivil, and family cases.

Related Content

Doxtdator noted the courts are accepting the filing of materials by email which removes the need for anyone to have to attend the downtown courthouse in person.

“The courts and counsel are doing their best to help self-represented litigants stay updated with the changes,” she said. “The courts have done a great job in adapting to these big changes in a short period of time.”

Doxtdator noted all civil lawsuits have been suspended unless they are also considered urgent such as time-sensitive issues that have financial repercussions.

“To preserve limitations periods under the Limitations Act, the courts have advised to file small claims and civil claims through their online portals,” Doxtdator said.

“I can understand the anxiety litigants have as their court case is in limbo, but everyone is doing the best they can to preserve litigation while under the government’s pandemic protocols.

"We have to be patient and keep learning new ways of doing things.”

Doxtdator said routine legal matters like wills are still getting done, but without a visit to the lawyer’s office as all client contact is now being done by Zoom, text message or teleconference.

“Lawyers can draft wills and powers of attorney by video conference for the duration of the emergency,” she said.

“An order has been made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act permitting virtual witnessing for wills and powers of attorney, so long as at least one person who is providing the service as a witness is a licensee pursuant to the Law Society Act.”

The pandemic is also affecting people who have landlord/tenant or Ontario Disability Support Program issues.

Mike Ollier, director of Legal Services at the nonprofit Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, noted prior to the pandemic the Landlord and Tenant Board was hearing complaints at the Ellen Fairclough Building on King Street West.

“They’re not doing that now,” Ollier said. “Most of those hearings have been postponed until further notice.”

Ollier said only matters such as an illegal lockout or a serious or violent incident involving a tenant that requires immediate attention are being heard.

“Everything else like maintenance is not being dealt with,” he said. “We hope people will continue to talk to each other and behave reasonably.”

Ollier noted about 70 per cent of the 100 to 150 calls they get each week for service are landlord and tenant related. In 2019 the legal clinic officials represented tenants in 5,041 cases.  

For people seeking benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program, Ollier said the social benefits tribunal that normally holds in-person hearings has moved to teleconference hearings.

“It has its problems,” said Ollier, who noted not all of their clients have phones or a quiet place where they can take part in a teleconference.

Ollier said while the board has indicated it will look at alternatives to phone hearings, folks who don’t have a phone are seeing their hearings postponed which forces them to try to find a phone or wait until in-person hearings are rescheduled and there is no indication when that might happen.

He said the legal clinic is trying to reduce the need for hearings by getting their clients to submit as much information as they can in advance to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic can be reached via hamiltonjustice.ca or 905-527-4572

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is also expected to affect Legal Aid Ontario, which finances the Hamilton legal clinic.

Ollier noted legal aid last year saw revenue of about $500 million, mostly from the province, but about $80 million came from the trust accounts of legal practitioners who remit the interest to the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Ollier said with dropping interest rates that remittance might fall by $50 million or $60 million this year.

He added the province has already cut Legal Aid by $133 million and community legal clinics like theirs are concerned how they will be able to cover increasing costs like rent if the money they rely on continues to decline.

Hamilton courts slowed by coronavirus pandemic

Only urgent matters are being heard, with most other cases put off until summer

News Apr 20, 2020 by Mark Newman Hamilton Mountain News

The desire for physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic has put most of Hamilton’s courts and tribunals on hold.

The Superior Court of Justice suspended most of their regular operations as of March 17 and matters scheduled after March 17 have been adjourned into June and July,” said Audrey Doxtdator, associate lawyer with Porter Law Office in Hamilton.

“The court is still hearing urgent matters such as any request for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent. If a matter is deemed urgent, the court will schedule a hearing via teleconference or video conference.”

The Superior Court oversees criminalcivil, and family cases.

Related Content

Doxtdator noted the courts are accepting the filing of materials by email which removes the need for anyone to have to attend the downtown courthouse in person.

“The courts and counsel are doing their best to help self-represented litigants stay updated with the changes,” she said. “The courts have done a great job in adapting to these big changes in a short period of time.”

Doxtdator noted all civil lawsuits have been suspended unless they are also considered urgent such as time-sensitive issues that have financial repercussions.

“To preserve limitations periods under the Limitations Act, the courts have advised to file small claims and civil claims through their online portals,” Doxtdator said.

“I can understand the anxiety litigants have as their court case is in limbo, but everyone is doing the best they can to preserve litigation while under the government’s pandemic protocols.

"We have to be patient and keep learning new ways of doing things.”

Doxtdator said routine legal matters like wills are still getting done, but without a visit to the lawyer’s office as all client contact is now being done by Zoom, text message or teleconference.

“Lawyers can draft wills and powers of attorney by video conference for the duration of the emergency,” she said.

“An order has been made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act permitting virtual witnessing for wills and powers of attorney, so long as at least one person who is providing the service as a witness is a licensee pursuant to the Law Society Act.”

The pandemic is also affecting people who have landlord/tenant or Ontario Disability Support Program issues.

Mike Ollier, director of Legal Services at the nonprofit Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, noted prior to the pandemic the Landlord and Tenant Board was hearing complaints at the Ellen Fairclough Building on King Street West.

“They’re not doing that now,” Ollier said. “Most of those hearings have been postponed until further notice.”

Ollier said only matters such as an illegal lockout or a serious or violent incident involving a tenant that requires immediate attention are being heard.

“Everything else like maintenance is not being dealt with,” he said. “We hope people will continue to talk to each other and behave reasonably.”

Ollier noted about 70 per cent of the 100 to 150 calls they get each week for service are landlord and tenant related. In 2019 the legal clinic officials represented tenants in 5,041 cases.  

For people seeking benefits through the Ontario Disability Support Program, Ollier said the social benefits tribunal that normally holds in-person hearings has moved to teleconference hearings.

“It has its problems,” said Ollier, who noted not all of their clients have phones or a quiet place where they can take part in a teleconference.

Ollier said while the board has indicated it will look at alternatives to phone hearings, folks who don’t have a phone are seeing their hearings postponed which forces them to try to find a phone or wait until in-person hearings are rescheduled and there is no indication when that might happen.

He said the legal clinic is trying to reduce the need for hearings by getting their clients to submit as much information as they can in advance to the Ministry of Community and Social Services.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic can be reached via hamiltonjustice.ca or 905-527-4572

Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is also expected to affect Legal Aid Ontario, which finances the Hamilton legal clinic.

Ollier noted legal aid last year saw revenue of about $500 million, mostly from the province, but about $80 million came from the trust accounts of legal practitioners who remit the interest to the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Ollier said with dropping interest rates that remittance might fall by $50 million or $60 million this year.

He added the province has already cut Legal Aid by $133 million and community legal clinics like theirs are concerned how they will be able to cover increasing costs like rent if the money they rely on continues to decline.