Canadian Lawyer

June 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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6 UPFRONT ONTARIO UPDATE NEWS BRIEFS Judge warns against 'outrageous' costs A short but emphatic decision from Ontario's Superior Court of Justice says that lawyers must "resolve as many issues as reasonably possible, including costs," as the COVID-19 pandemic slackens the pace of the justice system. Justice Deena Baltman bashed a lawyer's bill as "highly unreasonable," calling it an insincere attempt to resolve costs. "Counsel must know that in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, court resources are severely strained," wrote Baltman. "Outrageous cost demands which predictably will require further adjudication by the court completely frustrate that objective, and must be discouraged." Parties' consent not required for video hearings A decision from Ontario's Divisional Court says "consent of the parties is not required" to schedule a hearing by video conference. In the April 24 ruling, Association of Professional Engineers v. Rew, 2020 ONSC 2589, Justice David Corbett wrote that the hearing would be conducted based on a written record without oral testimony, concluding electronic hearings are "a key aspect of the court's response" to COVID-19. "The relative importance of the case has nothing to do with whether the case can be heard fairly and efficiently by video conference," wrote Corbett. LSO adjusts articling and licensing requirements In light of COVID-19, the Law Society of Ontario said lawyers may supervise certain licensing candidates who have not yet been called to the bar, as long as specific conditions have been met. Articling candidates may also now apply to reduce or abridge their experiential training requirement based on compassionate grounds, such as family responsibilities, prolonged illness or injuries or difficulties arising from the COVID-19 crisis. The LSO also urged lawyer and paralegal candidates to communicate with their principals and supervisors about the best possible arrangements that can be made for continued supervision while they work from home. Slew of judicial appointments announced Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti has announced four new appointments in Ontario courts. Steve Coroza has been appointed a justice of appeal of the Court of Appeal for Ontario. Leonard Ricchetti was appointed regional senior judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario for the Central West Region. Melanie Kraft has been appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, and Giulia Gambacorta has been appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. Ontario to spend $1.3M on justice technology The provincial government is dedicating $1.3 million to ease the transition of Ontario courts to remote operations and to protect justice staff who continue to deliver essential services amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Given that courtrooms across the province are now dealing remotely with in-custody individuals and hearing priority matters via audio and video conferencing, the funds will be used to invest in laptops, digital recording devices, e-filing tools and other means of technology. The plan includes doubling the number of digital recording devices for court use. Ontario allows virtual will witnessing Clients are rushing to update wills amid COVID; government provides option for housebound clients PRIOR TO April 7, lawyers were watching wills passed and signed through the threshold of the neighbour's front door or in the front yard to maintain social distancing, says Risa Awerbuck, a partner at Torkin Manes LLP. Due to the strict rules in Ontario, the status quo was to avoid sending the will out to be executed by the client without a lawyer present for fear it would not be executed properly, says Jordan Atin, who practises under Atin PC. While two non-beneficiaries were required to witness the will signing in person, social distancing meant many people had been cut off from those who would normally be present, Awerbuck says. Not seeing anyone became even more vital for the sick or elderly. Then Ontario announced it would allow lawyers to facilitate virtual witnessing of wills as an emer- gency measure. Thanks to the regulation, a video call may be enough for such people. Atin says the Ministry of the Attorney General should be commended for providing lawyers with another option for clients who don't want to travel (or do their signatures with gloves and masks at the 10-feet-apart tables set up in Atin's backyard.) Atin has worked with Hull & Hull LLP to Jordan Atin

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