COVID-19 Trials

photo of clouds

Does every cloud really have a silver lining?

Maybe COVID-19 has brought a silver lining to the court system.  For many months now, the courts have either been shut or operating at a snail’s pace.  Prospective juror’s, court staff, lawyers and Judges have all been reluctant to congregate in a courtroom let alone a juror’s lounge.

Even before COVID-19, injured citizens were reluctant in many cases to even think about taking part in a public trial in order to obtain some semblance of justice for their injuries and losses.

But, now several months into this horrific pandemic Zoom has emerged as a viable tool to not only keep the justice system from collapsing but to make it more efficient and user-friendly compared to the traditional way the courts operated.

Today’s Zoom courtroom brings everyone together on a screen as opposed to being in a stuffy courtroom or juror’s lounge.

Currently, our firm is doing an 8-week trial via Zoom.  We’ve had witnesses testifying from England, California, Wales and various offices and homes in Ontario.  The judge is situated in Simcoe with defense counsel in Toronto.

One of our boardrooms has been converted into a virtual TV studio with secure COVID-19 safety glass in place for our two participating lawyers as well as a separate COVID-19 secure location for some of our witnesses who have chosen to testify from our office.  All of this seems to work very efficiently and gives our clients a sense of ease not possible in a public courtroom.

Expert witnesses don’t have to travel hither and yon to various court houses and can be efficiently scheduled without expensive time for travel.

Lawyers are able to do trials from the comfort of their own offices, cutting down on travel time and parking issues in the major cities of our province.

Since 90+ percent of all litigation settles without a trial, Zoom has come to the rescue here as well.

Examinations for discovery can also be done from the comfort of the lawyers’ offices.

In addition, settlement mediations can also be completed from the comfort of home offices and even the homes of clients.

In conclusion, for the Justice system, COVID-19 has forced all of us to find ways to make the system work without putting any of the participants in needless jeopardy of catching the virus.

This has helped the system cost much less to operate and speed up the possibility of earlier resolution of many cases.

So the cloud of COVID-19 did come with a silver lining, which will speed up the justice system while at the same time costing less to the litigants and providing a more pleasant environment for the litigants.



About the Author

BRUCE HILLYER - burlington lawyer


Bruce Hillyer is one of the founding partners of what is now Martin & Hillyer Associates. Bruce was called to the bar in 1972 and has over 40 years experience as a trial lawyer representing clients in the Burlington area. His practice is focused on civil and criminal litigation, with an emphasis on personal injury and insurance disputes.