Coronavirus: Alberta Court Closures

[COVID-19] Alberta Court Closures: How You Might Be Affected

As COVID-19 continues to be a major health concern across Alberta, the Alberta Court System is reducing court services and adjourning or transitioning matters from in-person to electronic appearances to lower the curve of community transmission.

Below is a summary of how each court is handling matters during the pandemic.

Provincial Court of Alberta

Do NOT enter a courthouse if you have been advised to self-isolate by public health officials.

As of March 23, 2020, the Provincial Court of Alberta has issued the following directives:

  • If you have a family, civil, criminal court or a Provincial Offences/traffic court appearance in the Alberta Provincial Court scheduled between March 17, 2020 – May 22, 2020, you do not need to attend unless the matter is an in-custody or urgent criminal matter, or an urgent family or child protection matter.
  • The Court website will be updated regularly to provide information regarding rescheduling, which will be 10 weeks from the date of your scheduled court appearance or the next court date thereafter.
  • No members of the public will be permitted in courthouses unless they are required for a court matter (parties, witnesses, media). Legal counsel is permitted access to the Courthouse for urgent court-related business ONLY.
  • Do not come into a courthouse in person if you have been advised to self-isolate by public health officials, your doctor or the Alberta Health Services website; or you are self-isolating as a result of travel or contact with individuals with COVID-19.

Civil Matters

All Provincial Court civil matters, including trials, chambers list applications and pretrial conferences that are scheduled to be heard prior to May 22, 2020 are adjourned sine die (indefinitely). This applies to all PTCs and chambers list matters, including matters now set to be heard by phone.

Matters which are presently scheduled to be heard after May 22, 2020, for the time being, remain as scheduled. Please contact the civil division hotlines at the numbers below, or your local courthouse to stay up-to-date on those matters scheduled after May 22, 2020.

If a litigant feels their matter is urgent they are to contact the clerks’ office who will refer it to a judge to determine the urgency. For scheduling concerns, please call the civil division hotlines. Those lines are:

Edmonton: 780 644-7638
Calgary: 403 297-7219

For matters that are scheduled to be heard outside of Edmonton or Calgary please contact your local courthouse.

Urgent/Time-Sensitive Documents

Effective immediately we will only be filing urgent/time-sensitive documents:

  • Civil Claims where the limitation period/date is about to expire.
  • Applications and Affidavits for extending time for service of a Civil Claim that will soon expire.
  • Dispute Notes and other time-sensitive pleadings.
  • Notices of Appeal
  • Applications that are of an emergent nature (such as setting aside a judgment where collection proceedings have commenced, or Landlord/Tenant matters where safety is an issue).
  • Please note: the Court will determine if the Application will be filed, and if and when the hearing will be set.

Traffic Court

cars in traffic

Until further notice, all Traffic Courts in Alberta will be closed effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

If you have an appearance, trial or application scheduled during the closure, do not attend court in person. Contact the court handling your matter by telephone, e-mail or fax.

Calgary Traffic Court Contact

CalTraffic.counter@gov.ab.ca
Tel: 403-592-2922
Fax: 403-297-2220

If you:

  • do not dispute your ticket but need time to pay,
  • wish to adjourn your matter, or
  • wish to plead not guilty and set a trial date. Not guilty pleas will also continue to be accepted by mail. Follow the instructions on your ticket for submitting a not guilty plea by mail.

If you fail to contact the court handling your matter on or before your scheduled appearance, trial or application date, you may be convicted in absence, or a warrant may be issued for your arrest. If you are convicted in absence, you may be subject to a late payment charge.

Do NOT attend the courthouse to pay fines in person.

Fine payments can be made:

  • online
  • by mail to the Provincial Traffic Production Centre, 601 5th Street SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P 5P7
  • through a Registry Office

Family, Child Protection and Youth Criminal Matters

If you have a Family, Child Protection or Youth Criminal Matter scheduled in Calgary please refer to the following resource provided by the Provincial Court of Alberta:

https://albertacourts.ca/docs/default-source/pc/pc-calgary-family-youth-pandemic-planning-(march-20-2020).pdf

If you have a Family, Child Protection of Youth Criminal Matter scheduled in Edmonton please refer to the following resource provided by the Provincial Court of Alberta:

https://albertacourts.ca/docs/default-source/pc/pc-edmonton-family-youth-pandemic-planning_march-26.pdf

If you have a Family, Child Protection or Youth Criminal Matter scheduled outside of Calgary or Edmonton:

Non-urgent family matters which were to be heard between March 16 and May 22, 2020 will be adjourned for ten weeks from the scheduled court date or to the next closest court date thereafter.

The following matters will still be heard by the courts outside Edmonton and Calgary as required, though you need to check which court location as some circuit courts have closed:

  • matters with statutory limitations or deadlines;
  • where there is the risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or the child;
  • where there is a risk of removal of a child;
  • apprehension orders;
  • Initial Custody Hearings,
  • first appearance after apprehension, and
  • mandatory reviews or show causes under the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act, Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act, Mandatory Drug Testing and Disclosure Act, and Mental Health Act;
  • warrants, and
  • emergency protection order
  • Family Pre-Trial Conferences and Child Protection Case Management Meetings and will be conducted by telephone unless adjourned.
  • Child Protection Hearing where the parties have consented to a return, Supervision order, Temporary Guardianship Order or Permanent Guardianship Order will occur as agreed by counsel or as directed by the court.

Court of Queens Bench of Alberta

Court of Queens Bench in Calgary

The Alberta Courts are attempting to balance the open court principle with public health priorities. The Courts are taking proactive preventative measures to protect justice system participants and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Effective March 30, 2020, access to all courthouses in the province of Alberta will be restricted until further notice.

Members of the general public will not be permitted to enter a courthouse unless they are:

  • parties to the litigation/appeal,
  • counsel to the parties to the litigation/appeal,
  • witnesses,
  • interpreters whose presence is required for a proceeding,
  • support persons as set out in s. 486.1(1) and (2) of the Criminal Code,
  • support workers authorized by the Courts to assist parties to the litigation/appeal,
  • members of the accredited media,
  • persons paying a criminal fine or restitution order or paying bail or surety applications on behalf of an accused because they are unable to access electronic payment.
  • persons filing documents at a Court registry.
  • persons whose attendance has been approved by a judge or justice of the Court in which a proceeding is being held.

At this time only emergency matters will proceed. Emergency matters, in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is a risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order, including, but not limited to:

  • Family Matters

    •  Orders where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or a child.
    • Orders where there is a risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction.
    • Emergency Protection Order reviews.
  • Civil Matters

    • Orders relating to the pandemic, including quarantine orders.
    • Injunctions, where there is prima facie urgency, including refusal of treatment/end of life matters
    • Civil Restraining Orders.
    • Preservation Orders.
    • Urgent Orders in the nature of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, and prohibition.
  • Surrogate Matters

    • Emergency Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Orders, where there is a risk of harm to an individual or their property.
  • Criminal Matters

    • Detention and bail review Orders.
    • Wiretap, Production and related Orders.
    • Fresh arrest warrants.

Urgent Matters Requiring Priority Attention as of March 23, 2020:

Subject to the prior approval of a Justice or Master as the case may be, matters that do not rise to the level of the first priority, but must nevertheless proceed in a timely way in the context of a reduction in Court services. These matters include, but are not limited to:

  • Arraignments for in-custody accused and Jordan-threatened cases.
  • Criminal proceedings where there is a real risk to the fair and proper adjudication of the matter due to the passage of time and where there is consent to proceed by videoconference or audioconference.
  • Urgent Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Orders.
  • Urgent orders relating to parenting time, contact or communication with a child (that cannot reasonably be delayed).
  • Urgent or time-sensitive Commercial matters where there are immediate and significant financial consequences which may result if there is no judicial hearing.
  • Urgent Surrogate Orders.
  • Anton Piller or Mareva-type injunctions.
  • Freezing Orders.

If you have questions regarding your Court of Queen’s Bench matter you can contact the Court for clarification as follows:

For Emergency Matters: email emergencyhearings.QBCalgary@albertacourts.ca or phone 403-297-6267 (if no internet access)

For Non-Emergency Matters: Phone 403-297-5653

Court of Appeal

Alberta flag

The Court of Appeal continues to hear appeals, applications and motions but as of March 23, 2020, these are not in person. Details are set out below.

Procedural Time Limits Extended

Effective March 25, 2020, unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or judge, where an appeal (fast track, standard or criminal appeal) has not yet been set for hearing, and the deadline to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities falls on or prior to May 4, 2020, the deadline is extended by 2 months. Otherwise, all time limits remain in effect and must be respected.

Further, where an appeal has been set for hearing and has not been adjourned, the deadlines to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities also remain in effect and must be respected.

Filing deadlines for commencement documents (e.g., Notices of Appeal, Applications for Permission to Appeal) are not suspended and continue to apply.

Filing deadlines for applications continue to apply.

The Court’s Case Management Officers remain available to consider requests for extensions, fiats and other administrative directions.

Filing Modifications and Directions on Correspondence

Where possible, counsel and parties are encouraged to file their documents by email or fax. Filing Modifications: Effective March 23, 2020, until further notice, all documents may be filed by fax or email (in PDF format) as follows:

Calgary matters: Fax: 403-297-5294 or Calgary.Registry@albertacourts.ca
Edmonton matters: Fax: 780-422-4127 or Edmonton.Registry@albertacourts.ca

If you have any questions regarding filing by email or fax, please contact the applicable Registry by email (as set out above) or by telephone at:

Calgary matters: 403-297-2206
Edmonton matters: 780-422-2416

Counsel and parties that file documents by fax or email will be temporarily exempted from the filing of paper copies. Paper copies must be provided at a later time as required by the Court. A filed copy of the document will be returned via email or fax.

Correspondence: All correspondence should be emailed to the applicable Registry and not the Case Management Officer. Should a direction from the Case Management Officer be necessary, the Registry will notify the Case Management Officer for an appropriate response.

Email Formatting and Size Limitations: Please ensure that the subject line of any email contains both the appeal number and style of cause. Note that the Court is unable to accept documents by email that exceed 100MB in a single transmission.

Fees

Payment of any filing fee in a civil matter can be made electronically at https://eservices.alberta.ca/courtofappeal-filing-fees-civil.html. Once the payment is made, a copy of the receipt must be emailed to the appropriate Registry. Documents for which a fee is required will not be filed until the Registry receives a copy of the subject receipt or is otherwise satisfied payment has been received.

Drop Off Filing

Where possible, counsel and parties are encouraged to file their documents by email or fax. Where that is not possible, documents can be delivered to the Registry and left in a designated drop off area. Registry staff will retrieve documents from the designated area throughout the day and file them when time permits. Documents will be backdated to the date of receipt providing they are in compliance with the Rules. A contact name, email address and telephone number must be noted on the document. The Registry will notify filing parties by telephone or email when the document is ready to be picked up or of deficiencies that must be corrected.

Modification to Bail Check-Ins

Effective immediately, any person who is required to personally check in to a Registry counter under the terms of an Order for Judicial Interim Release may now do so by telephone or email. Any such person will be required to provide their name, appeal number, date of birth, address, telephone number and email address (where available).

Calgary matters: Telephone: 403-297-2206 or Calgary.Registry@albertacourts.ca
Edmonton matters: Telephone: 780-422-2416 or Edmonton.Registry@albertacourts.ca

Suspension of Appellate Judicial Dispute Resolution

The Court has suspended appellate judicial dispute resolution until July 2, 2020. Parties wishing to use this service may book dates beginning at that time.

Appeal Sittings and Applications Before Three-Judge Panels

The following protocol is now in effect with respect to appeals and applications to be heard by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal:

  • Unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or a judge, all appeals and applications before a three-judge panel will be heard electronically (by video conference or audio telephone). The participants must provide the Registry with contact video conference or telephone numbers for that purpose in advance of the hearing date. Communications with the Edmonton Registry are to be sent by email to Edmonton.Registry@albertacourts.ca or by phone to 780-422-2416. Communications with the Calgary Registry are to be sent by email at Calgary.Registry@albertacourts.ca or by phone to 403-297-2206.
  • If anyone feels that an in-person oral hearing is required (whether by reason of s 688 of the Criminal Code or otherwise), they are directed to contact a case management officer to explain why the appeal or application requires an in-person oral argument and the Court will issue a direction.
  • Personal attendance in court will not be permitted without prior written authorization from a case management officer or a judge.
  • Providing all parties consent, any appeal or application may be adjourned sine die.
  • The parties may consent to have the appeal or application decided on the paper record only without oral argument: R. 14.32(2) for appeals and R. 14.51 for applications. If the parties consent to proceed in that manner, the Registry should be advised in writing in advance of the hearing date.

Single Judge Duty Matters in the Court of Appeal.

The following protocol currently applies to matters set down before a single duty judge of the Court of Appeal:

  • Unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or a judge, all duty matters set down before a single judge will be heard by audio conference. The participants must provide the Registry with contact telephone numbers for that purpose in advance of the hearing date. Communications with the Edmonton Registry are to be sent by email to Edmonton.Registry@albertacourts.ca or by phone to 780-422-2416. Communications with the Calgary Registry are to be sent by email to Calgary.Registry@albertacourts.ca or by phone to 403-297-2206.
  • Personal attendance in chambers will not be permitted without prior written authorization from a case management officer or a judge.
  • Providing all parties consent, any matter may be adjourned sine die, although the parties are reminded that under R. 14.44(2), applications for permission to appeal must be heard within six months or they are deemed abandoned. Further, under R. 14.52, all other applications (including applications to a three-judge panel) must be heard within three months or they are deemed abandoned. Applications for fiat to extend the time may be made to a Case Management Officer.
  • The parties may consent to have applications decided on the paper record only without oral argument: R. 14.51. If the parties consent to proceed in that manner, the Registry should be advised in writing before the scheduled hearing date.

Further Inquiries?

Any further inquiries regarding hearing of appeals or applications can be directed to the Case Management Officers. As matters unfold, the Court may reduce or suspend Court operations or implement other measures including alternative measures for communication and filing of documents as warranted. Please continue to monitor the Court of Appeal website for up to date information.

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