As you are all aware, since the last message on Friday, the NSW Government has announced a fourteen day lockdown for the Greater Sydney area.
During this period, as always, the Association’s greatest priority is the health and safety of its members, judicial officers and staff and court users.
I remind members of the importance of complying with mask-wearing and social distancing requirements, both indoors and in outdoor settings such as when queuing outside court buildings. In court members should mask unless speaking as a general rule, and observe social distancing requirements.
Members should also remember, if appearing remotely with other members of their legal team in chambers, for example, that those requirements also need to be complied with by those in a non-speaking role. It may be appropriate for members in these circumstances to give consideration to keeping in touch with other members of their legal team during remote hearings though technologies which avoid the need to gather in a room together.
While on the subject of remote hearings, care needs to be taken to ensure that the same high standards of professionalism that apply in a real court room are applied to the virtual. Merely because members are conducting a hearing from the informal environment of the home, or from chambers, does not mean that informality can make its way into the conduct of the virtual hearing. The Association's Remote Hearing Protocol remains relevant.
Of course, there are unavoidable differences, particularly when working from home. The occasional distraction from house members, children and even pets are tolerated by the Court. That being acknowledged, particular care needs to be taken to minimise those distractions. Ultimately, common sense must prevail. If you would not do something in Court, you must continue to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that you do not do that in the virtual Court room.
Apart from ensuring you prioritise your own health and safety, members have a duty to act in their client’s best interests. While the Association of course recognises the efforts of courts and tribunals to maintain their operations during the current period, difficulties may arise for members in practice. If you find that the application of court in person or remote hearing arrangements may have a detrimental impact on your client’s interests, you should bring this to the attention of the relevant court or tribunal.
If problems continue, the Association is more than happy to raise particular concerns with Heads of Jurisdiction on your behalf. In these circumstances you can contact the Association’s Deputy Executive Director Alastair McConnachie at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will refer these concerns to members of the Bar Council Executive to raise on your behalf.
Members experiencing difficulties with remote technology can contact the Innovation and Technology Committee’s technical support facility at email@example.com
In the wake of the lockdown announcement on Saturday, various courts and tribunals have been issuing updates which are being conveyed to members via In Brief. The New South Wales Bar Association’s consolidated guide to COVID-19-related court arrangements is being updated daily in terms of recent developments, and today’s edition includes:
• the announcement from the Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court regarding arrangements for subpoena inspection;
• Children’s Court Public Notice No 9 ;
• an update from the President of NCAT; and
• an updated advice from the President of the Personal Injury Commission regarding its response to current COVID-19 health restrictions.
Members are advised that, although the Bar Association is regularly updating the COVID-19 page of its website as information comes to hand (some is out of date and awaiting revision) please refer to the latest court resources directly as developments are changing quickly at this time. Do not make any assumptions regarding your case without first doing so. Links to the various court and tribunal pages are provided in the body of the guide.
As always, members experiencing difficulties in relation to their health and welfare are encouraged to contact BarCare.
If you no longer wish to receive In Brief, please notify the Bar Association's Certification Officer