Last updated: 19 March 2020

Introduction

A number of courts around Australia have implemented measure to address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency; the changes attempt to reduce the need for parties to physically attend.

The changes have been summarised below. Due to the changing nature of this public health emergency these changes are likely to change. The Law Council is maintaining links to courts' evolving COVID-19 advice pages.

High Court

The High Court will not be sitting in Canberra or on circuit for April, May and June; it will review this in June. This will not affect the delivery of judgments. As for special leave applications, these will continue "as necessary at individual registries", and video link will be used for urgent matters.

Federal Courts

Federal Court of Australia

The appeals for the May Full Court's sitting period have been reviewed to assess those hearings which will proceed during this period and those that will be postponed or dealt with in other ways.

For first instance matters judges will continue to use their own discretion to manage their current dockets. The approach being adopted is that as much business as possible will be conducted on the papers and consideration will be given as to whether matters are able to be adjourned for a period. 

Registrars' Lists will be conducted as much as possible on the papers and by telephone hearing. Steps are being taken to adjourn as many matters as possible to later in the year.

So that the Court can adequately manage the allocation of all new matters that are filed, from this week a triage system will be implemented by which all matters are initially assessed for urgency and other relevant characteristics to determine whether the particular matter has a level of urgency or can be initially timetabled on the papers or adjourned for a period of time.


Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court

All Court Registries and circuits are continuing to operate as normal. Where individuals who are required to attend Court are required to quarantine for 14 days they are requested to contacts the Court and where possible arrangements will be made for attendance at hearings by telephone or video-link.

New South Wales

NSW Supreme Court

New jury trials commencing from Monday, 16 March, will temporarily be suspended. Current trials where a jury has been selected and empanelled, will continue.

From 23 March 2020, the following measures will be adopted:

  • Registrars' Lists will be conducted as must as possible either by the online court, where available, or by telephone link and, in the case of contentious matters, by video link.
  • A similar approach will be taken to Judges' Lists.
  • In appeals or first instance matters, consideration will be given to dealing with the matters by telephone or Audio Visual Link.
  • There will be no changes to the way the Criminal Lists and current Supreme Court Jury trials are being heard.

The Court has also removed water glasses and jugs from the courtroom. Practitioners are welcome to bring their own water, as many already do.


NSW District Court

New jury trials commencing in NSW from Monday, 16 March, will temporarily be suspended. Current trials where a jury has been selected and empanelled, will continue.


NSW Land Environment Court

Parties in Classes 1, 2 (excluding tree dispute applications), 3, 4 and 8 are encouraged to use Online Registry and Online Court. Parties in Class 2 tree dispute applications and Class 5, 6 and 7 criminal proceedings and appeals are encouraged to continue to seek directions and also access orders for subpoenas and notices to produce using the [email protected] email address.

The Court has telephone link services available and encourages parties to seek to have matters listed for directions or mention by telephone is they would prefer.

Victoria

Victorian Supreme Court

All new jury trials are suspended from Monday, 16 March 2020. Current trials where a jury has been selected and empanelled, will continue. All other hearings will continue as normal.


Victorian County Court

All new jury trials are suspended from Monday, 16 March 2020. Current trials where a jury has been selected and empanelled, will continue. All other hearings will continue as normal.

Queensland

All Queensland courts are operating as usual.

Western Australia

WA Supreme Court

Any person proposing to attend the Court who has flu-like symptoms or who travelled overseas in the last 14 days is directed not to enter the Court precincts. While the court remains open to the public, the Court recommends only legal practitioners, parties, witnesses and the media attend.

Where practical all documents presented for filing should be presented electronically or by registered post.

Where possible, all directions hearings, case management conferences and strategic conferences will be conducted by telephone. Civil trials and applications before judges will continue as listed.


Other WA Courts

The District Court and WA State Administrative Tribunal are operating as usual.