Canadian Lawyer

March 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 29 of 43

28 BACK IN March, arbitrator John Judge was in New York chairing a large International Court of Arbitration case involving parties from Brazil and the Netherlands. The hear- ings started on March 9, a Monday, and on Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, to be a pandemic. Canada and the United States began to invoke emergency measures, including partially closing their common border. "Most of us who sit as arbitrators have that experience" of hearing witnesses via videocon- Although virtual arbitral hearings were far less common pre-pandemic, arbitrators predict they are here to stay, especially in a hybrid form, writes Elizabeth Raymer Arbitrations are proceeding remotely — and successfully ference, says Judge, but "the pandemic simply stopped all cases dead in their tracks" in the immediate aftermath of the WHO announce- ment, making virtual hearings a necessity. After developing appropriate procedures and providing the necessary directions to complete the case by way of a Zoom virtual hearing, the hearing resumed on March 23, remotely. The benefit of the pandemic for arbitra- tion is learning that cases can move forward remotely, saving on legal costs especially for cases extending a year or more, says Judge. And the quality of the New York case hearing LEGAL REPORT ADR — which proceeded efficiently and concluded with an award in December — was not compromised at all, he adds. Since then, Judge has conducted numerous hearings, both procedural hear- ings for interim measures, as well as merit hearings, all on Zoom. "I certainly think, for the immediate future, they will remain a staple for the conduct of arbitrations," he says. "Zoom has allowed disputes to go forward; that tool will continue to be used and adapted on a go-for- ward basis as well."

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