Culture shift will be lasting legacy of COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. chief justice says

  • May 12, 2020

By Ian Burns for The Lawyer's Daily

B.C. Chief Justice Robert Bauman says he sees videoconferencing becoming a permanent option for some matters as the Court of Appeal emerges from the restraints placed on it by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bauman’s comments came as part of a panel discussion co-hosted with the Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch (CBABC) and the Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. (TLABC) May 8. He was joined on the panel by court registrar Timothy Outerbridge and legal counsel Shirley Smiley.

In the webinar, the participants go over the changes which have been put in place as the Court of Appeal navigates the pandemic, such as moving hearings to the online videoconferencing provider Zoom, which began May 4. Bauman said he said he feels there will be “many good things” that are going to be carried forward when the court eventually returns to normal operations.

“The e-filing enhancements will continue to expand and improve, [and] videoconferencing I see as becoming a permanent option,” he said. “Not for all appeals obviously, and that is not to suggest that the Zoom appeal doesn’t provide all of the advantages a normal appeal does — I think it does, but still, the in-person hearing of appeals is something we will be carrying on, obviously, when able. But nevertheless, the Zoom option, or the type of virtual appeal we have been utilizing in the past and the next few weeks will be available as an option I believe going forward.”

Culture shift is possible and will be a lasting legacy of the pandemic, said Bauman. He also added, as a result of the Zoom hearings and additional hearing dates, he hopes the backlog at the court, which was created as a result of taking fewer cases during March and April, will be resolved in July.

“And I am hopeful that the investments which have been made by government in our technological infrastructure will be there for the months and years to come, making us more resilient and accessible in the long term,” he said.

In addition, the court has also released a recording of the appeal hearing in Trenchard v. Westsea Construction Ltd., which took place by video conference using Zoom on May 5. If you have any feedback about the appeal recording, you may write to the court at Video.Conference.Appeals@bccourts.ca.