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B.C.’s chief judge tells lawyers, litigants to behave online

People appearing before judges from coffee shops or in their cars
With people appearing online before judges from coffee shops or their cars, B.C. Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie has had to issue a warning to people to behave properly during proceedings

With pandemic court cases being heard virtually, B.C.’s provincial court has had to issue a warning to people to behave properly during proceedings.

A warning issued July 20 said the court has seen remote appearances being made from inappropriate locations such as in coffee shop line-ups or while driving as well as inappropriate behaviour such as eating, using the chat function to chat or tell jokes and lawyers dressing informally.

While the court said the switch to virtual appearances forced by the pandemic has clearly made access to justice greater, behaviour has become somewhat lax.

“People were isolated in their homes and learning to use new technology. Judges understood the challenges they faced in creating appropriate environments for virtual court appearances and learning the ropes,” the advisory said.

So, Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie found herself having to issue a notice July 15 about remote attendance etiquette, stressing all attendees must dress and behave as if they were in a regular courtroom while attending online.

“Counsel must appear in a quiet, private space with a neutral background,” the chief judge’s notice said. “Self-represented parties, witnesses, and other court participants should make reasonable efforts to find a quiet, private space with a neutral background for their court appearances.

At least one recent court ruling has mentioned a self-represented litigant’s behaviour and the need to move to written submissions as a result.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Harris said in a July 20 application ruling he was interrupted “repeatedly with profanity laden outbursts” in an accident case.

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