Supreme Court of BC Resumption of Some Court Operations - Civil and Family Matters (Revised)

  • May 21, 2020

COVID-19: RESUMPTION OF SOME COURT OPERATIONS​

COVID-19 Notice No. 22
Date: revised May 21, 2020

Highlighted changes:

  • Clarifications regarding jury selection and jury trials

This notice replaces the following notice:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 19 – Resumption of Some Court Operations, dated May 13, 2020

This notice supplements the following notice:

Effective March 19, 2020 and until further notice, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

All civil and family matters scheduled for hearing between March 19 and May 29, 2020 were adjourned, unless the Court otherwise directed. This automatic adjournment extended to all trials, conferences, and chambers applications or other hearings currently scheduled for hearing on or before May 29, 2020.

The Court is resuming some operations. This notice sets out what matters will be phased in over the coming weeks. It also provides direction regarding timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules that had been suspended. Further directions about court operations will be forthcoming, and members of the profession, the public and the media are advised to continue to monitor the Court’s website for updates.

While the Court is taking all steps necessary to resume some court operations, the Court cannot guarantee that matters will proceed as scheduled. The Province is still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts taken to contain it. Due to the fluidity of the situation, the Court will continue to be guided by public health recommendations, and further adjustments to Court processes may be required. In these challenging times, the Court appreciates willingness on the part of parties to expect and accommodate changes with respect to scheduled proceedings.

As set out in this Notice, hearings and conferences will be conducted by telephone. Notice will be provided if and when in-person and video conferencing hearings become available.

I. MATTERS BEING HEARD DURING SUSPENSION OF OPERATIONS

The Court continues to hear or consider the following civil and family matters:

These processes will remain in place until further notice, during the resumption of some operations.

II. SCHEDULE FOR RESUMPTION OF CIVIL AND FAMILY MATTERS

Trials

All civil and family trials scheduled to begin on or before June 5, 2020 are adjourned, unless the Court otherwise directs. All civil and family trials scheduled to begin on or after June 8, 2020 will resume, unless the Court otherwise directs. The resumption of civil and family trials may be subject to change as a result of limitations on available facilities or public health recommendations. See COVID-19 Notice #23 for more information regarding the resumption of trials.

Jury Selections and Jury Trials

All civil jury selections are suspended and jury trials are cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020 everywhere in the province. Until further notice, parties are not required to submit jury fees. When the Court announces that jury trials will resume, the Court may consider abridging the time for submission of fees if requests are made by parties.

Since resumption of jury selections must precede resumption of jury trials, jury trials may be further delayed. For civil matters where a jury notice has been filed and served, a party wishing to proceed by judge alone may schedule a trial management conference (“TMC”) or a judicial management conference (“JMC”) and apply to have the jury notice set aside. A party wishing to continue with a trial by jury can oppose such an application and apply to adjourn the trial. If all parties consent to proceeding by judge alone this may be addressed at a TMC or a JMC.

Chambers Hearings and Conferences

As of June 1, 2020, the following matters will resume by telephone:

  • Judicial Case Conferences for family matters;
  • Chambers matters already scheduled for hearing on the trial list; and
  • TMCs, as set out in COVID-19 Notice #23

Judicial Case Conferences that are already scheduled to occur on or after June 1, 2020 will resume by telephone. Parties may also schedule a Judicial Case Conference, which will occur by telephone, on or after June 1, 2020 by contacting Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the file is located and filing and serving all required materials pursuant to Rule 7-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. Registry contact information can be found online here.

Apart from chambers matters that are already scheduled for hearing on the trial list, which will be heard by telephone, civil and family chambers are adjourned until further notice. Parties may still file applications as appropriate under the various processes referred to in Part I of this Notice.

The balance of the scheduled matters before the Court remain adjourned until further notice. As the Court continues with its plan for resumption of court operations, further information will be provided as it becomes available.

III. LIMITATION PERIODS AND FILING DEADLINES

Running of Filing Timelines under the Supreme Court Rules Will Resume

Filing and service timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules, which were suspended on March 18, 2020, will recommence on May 29, 2020. Filing and service timelines will begin to run again starting May 29, 2020. With the exception of any document associated with a Request for Urgent Hearing, Telephone Conference Hearing, or Application by Written Submissions, documents filed between March 19 and May 28, 2020 will be deemed to have been filed on May 29, 2020. Parties are encouraged to e-file through Court Services Online. Alternate methods for filing as set out in COVID-19 Notice #8 also remain in place. A party unable to meet a filing deadline for reasons related to COVID-19 may apply through a Telephone Conference Hearing or an Application by Written Submission for an order amending the timeline for filing.

The suspension of regular operations and adjournment of trials scheduled on or before May 29, 2020 necessarily suspended the usual timelines under the Supreme Court Civil and Family Rules for holding TMCs, for filing Trial Briefs, and for filing Trial Certificates, as these timelines all count back from the scheduled trial date. Trials scheduled for hearing following May 29, 2020 are also affected. See COVID-19 Notice #23 regarding the resumption of TMCs.

Provincial Suspension of Limitation Periods Remains in Place

Effective April 15, 2020, Ministerial Order No. M098 suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods for the commencement of a civil or family proceeding from March 18, 2020 to the date on which the last extension of the declaration of the state of emergency made under section 9 (1) of the Emergency Program Act expires or is cancelled, except for those limitations and time periods established under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act.

Once this suspension is lifted, more directions will be provided by the Court.

IV. REGISTRY SERVICES REMAIN SUSPENDED

Courthouse registries are not providing in-person services until further notice.

However, all courthouses continue to accept documents for civil and family matters.

Parties are strongly encouraged to e-file through Court Services Online.

Those unable to e-file may file documents by way of:

  • Fax Filing at a registry designated as a fax filing registry by Supreme Court Civil Rule 23-2 or Supreme Court Family Rule 22-3. See Appendix A for a list of fax filing registries and the fax numbers;
  • Mailing to any Supreme Court registry. Contact information for all Supreme Court registries is available here; and
  • Using the Secure Drop Box available at Supreme Court registries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The drop box will be accessible to the public from Monday to Friday, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., and will be emptied at the end of the day and processed every 24 hours. The drop box will be monitored to ensure its contents are secure during the day. Parties who submit materials for filing using the drop box must provide with the materials a telephone number or email address where they can be reached. Registry staff will contact parties only if their materials are not accepted for filing.

V. HEARINGS WILL BE SCHEDULED AT SEVEN CENTRALIZED REGISTRIES

Effective March 30, 2020, and until further notice, hearings of the Supreme Court of British Columbia will only be scheduled at the following seven central locations, unless otherwise ordered by the Court:

  • Vancouver Law Courts
  • New Westminster
  • Victoria
  • Kamloops
  • Kelowna
  • Prince George
  • Nanaimo

Hearings will occur by telephone or video conferencing where appropriate and available, unless otherwise directed by the Court.

Other registries will continue to receive documents in the manner set out in this notice.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated May 21, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Appendix A – Fax Filing Registries

Chilliwack (604) 795-8397

Cranbrook (250) 426-1498

Dawson Creek (250) 784-2218

Kamloops (250) 828-4345

Kelowna (250) 979-6768

Nelson (250) 354-6133

Penticton (250) 492-1290

Prince George (250) 614-7923

Rossland (250) 362-7321

Salmon Arm (250) 833-7401

Smithers (250) 847-7344

Terrace (250) 638-2143

Vernon (250) 549-5461

Williams Lake (250) 398-4264