James Farmer

Legal Commentary

Court Hearings and Covid-19 - Part Two

Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Following communications from some lawyers after yesterday’s posting, I feel it may be necessary to summarise my overall view of what should be happening in the courts in relation to trials and other substantive hearings (e.g. appeal hearings) as a result of Covid-19 and, more particularly, now that we are in Alert Level 3. It is of course only the view of one barrister but here it is:


(1) Virtual hearings conducted remotely through individual devices operated by each participant (including the litigants as well as counsel, the Judge or Judges and witnesses if any) are not an acceptable form of administering Justice. I do not agree that the parties should have the option of agreeing to virtual hearings, for the reasons I outlined in yesterday’s blog.

(2) Given the safeguards proposed for the operation of the courts (in terms of sanitising, 2 metre distancing requirements, continuing courtroom cleaning), in person oral hearings of all substantive matters should be held.

(3) If that position is not accepted or if, in any specific case, there are reasons why an in person oral hearing cannot be held, the case should be adjourned until such time as such a hearing can be held.

The High Court Protocol issued on 23 April 2020 states that where counsel or parties or witnesses are required to attend court, the hearings will be held in larger courtrooms to provide physical distancing. The only impediment that I see to this is that this will make it more difficult for counsel on the same side to communicate with one another. As senior counsel, I am tempted to say that may be a blessing. However, texting is one form of remote communication that is probably adequate to deal with that situation or, if it is a matter of real importance and urgency that can’t wait until the next break, a request for a 5 minute adjournment could be made.

While we are in the mood for some minor reforms to courtroom conduct, could I suggest that at least while Covid-19 restrictions persist, counsel be permitted to take coffee into the courtroom (something for which I was roundly scolded for during the input methodologies hearing in the Wellington High Court by the Registrar, to the great amusement of the large number of lawyers present that day).

I should acknowledge that I believe that the Judges are committed to business as usual if that can be conducted safely. With businesses re-opening (with observance of the social distancing and other requirements), that should surely be possible now in virtually all cases.

Jim Farmer

29 April 2020

Recent Posts

  1. Will the Proposed Cannabis Legislation Achieve its "Overarching Objective" of Reducing the Harms Associated with Cannabis Use? Chris Goode 18-May-2020
  2. The Debate Continues - Virtual Hearings or Real Hearings Chris Goode 02-May-2020
  3. These Issues were all Predicted Pre-Covid-19 and 6 Years Ago Chris Goode 02-May-2020
  4. More Correspondence on Covid-19 and the Courts Chris Goode 30-Apr-2020
  5. And here is a Report from Stuff of a Virtual Hearing this Week Chris Goode 30-Apr-2020
  6. In Defence of Remote Technology - from Steve Keall Chris Goode 29-Apr-2020
  7. Court Hearings and Covid-19 - Part Two Chris Goode 29-Apr-2020
  8. Court Hearings and Covid-19 Chris Goode 28-Apr-2020
  9. Covid-19 and Executory Contracts: Will the Doctrine of Frustration Apply? Chris Goode 06-Apr-2020
  10. Race, Poverty and Education - Lessons from the UK learned while spending Christmas in London December 2019 Chris Goode 13-Jan-2020
  11. Witnesses in Civil Cases - the Consequences of Not Calling and of Not Cross-Examining - A Paper Presented to the Pacific Islands Lawyers Association, Auckland, 22 November 2019 Chris Goode 22-Nov-2019
  12. The Forthcoming Referendum on the Growing and Supply of Cannabis for Personal Recreational Use Chris Goode 19-Nov-2018
  13. Armistice Day and Its Sequel Chris Goode 14-Nov-2018
  14. An Easy Read of the Rule of Law in the World of Fiction Chris Goode 08-Aug-2018
  15. Bullying, Harassment and Gender Bias Chris Goode 22-May-2018
  16. Criticising Judges Chris Goode 07-May-2018
  17. America's Cup Part 3A Chris Goode 11-Dec-2017
  18. America's Cup Part 3 Chris Goode 04-Dec-2017
  19. Pro Bono Publico as an Aid to Living a Balanced Lifestyle Chris Goode 08-Nov-2017
  20. Terence Arnold Retires From the Supreme Court Bench Chris Goode 10-Apr-2017
  21. From Violence to Redemption Chris Goode 15-Mar-2017
  22. Drugs, Sports and Society Chris Goode 18-Oct-2016
  23. Are Our Law Schools Churning Out Too Many Lawyers? Chris Goode 25-Aug-2016
  24. Equiticorp 20 Years On Chris Goode 07-Jun-2016
  25. The Year in Retrospect Chris Goode 19-Jan-2016
  26. A Good Year for the Farmer Legal Family Chris Goode 30-Oct-2015
  27. Having a Balanced Life Style - Part 4 Chris Goode 21-Sep-2015
  28. A Balanced Life Style (Part 3), Prisoners' Voting Rights, Top Gun, 7000kms in a Corvette, John Maynard Keynes and Atticus Finch Chris Goode 05-Aug-2015
  29. Biographies Chris Goode 13-Apr-2015
  30. The Cost of Justice Chris Goode 13-Mar-2015
  31. The Increase in Unrepresented Litigants and Their Effect on the Judicial Process Chris Goode 11-Feb-2015
  32. Evidence - Notes of Presentation to Continuing Legal Education Seminar November 2014 Chris Goode 01-Dec-2014
  33. Corporate Governance and Directors' Liability Chris Goode 19-Aug-2014
  34. Paper Presented on 2 August 2014 at the Competition Law & Policy Institute of New Zealand 25th Annual Conference Chris Goode 05-Aug-2014
  35. Life in the Fast Lane Chris Goode 06-Jun-2014
  36. 2014 - Roaring Past Chris Goode 04-Jun-2014
  37. Commentary on Paper Delivered by Professor Andrew I Gavil at Commerce Commission Conference Chris Goode 19-Nov-2013
  38. America's Cup Wrap Up Chris Goode 04-Oct-2013
  39. Happiness, Living a Balanced Life and Legal Practice - Part II Chris Goode 15-Aug-2013
  40. America's Cup 2013 Chris Goode 01-Jul-2013
  41. Why the Rules of Evidence Matter in Civil Cases Chris Goode 12-Mar-2013
  42. The High Court in Review Chris Goode 08-Oct-2012
  43. "Criticism of Supreme Court needs to be put in context" as published in the New Zealand Herald 11 May 2012 Chris Goode 23-May-2012
  44. Recent Reform Reports Chris Goode 03-Apr-2012
  45. Happiness, Living a Balanced Life and Legal Practice Chris Goode 09-Jan-2012
  46. In Defence of the Supreme Court Chris Goode 12-Dec-2011
  47. Cross Examination Notes Chris Goode 11-Nov-2011
  48. The passing of three leaders of the Bar Chris Goode 14-Sep-2011
  49. Commentary on my commentary on Morse Chris Goode 14-Sep-2011
  50. How good is our Supreme Court? Chris Goode 08-Aug-2011

Georgia Racing

Website Managed by Generate Design