Difference between revisions of "Appearing in Court by Phone"

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{{REVIEWEDPLS | reviewer = [http://www.robertslaw.ca/about.html Adam Roberts], Adam J. Roberts|date= January 2018}} {{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = courts}}
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In some situations, parties may be able to attend court by telephone. But they will need to get court approval — in advance. Telephone hearings are more available before tribunals.
  
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==What you should know==
==Normally, people must appear in court in person==
 
People suing or being sued (parties) who are not represented by a lawyer, must usually appear (attend) in person, not by phone, at hearings in:
 
*BC Provincial Court (family, traffic, criminal and small claims cases)
 
*BC Supreme Court (for various types of cases), and other courts and decision-making bodies in BC
 
  
If a person required to attend a hearing does not show up, a court may rule against them.  
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===Normally, parties must attend court in person===
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In a court proceeding in BC, the people directly involved in the lawsuit (called the '''parties''') must usually attend '''in person''' at any court hearing, or have a lawyer appear on their behalf.
  
==People can ask to appear in court by phone==
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If a party does not show up, a court may rule against them.
If a person wants to appear in court by phone, they usually need to get court approval. And they need to get the court approval well before the hearing.  
 
  
A court may not approve the request if it thinks someone needs to appear in person to:
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This rule applies generally to proceedings in Provincial Court and Supreme Court in BC. There are some exceptions, however, where parties can ask to attend court by phone. We explain these here.
*confirm their identity
 
*reduce the risk of unseen and improper influences
 
*make procedures, like viewing of documents, easier
 
*allow the judge or other decision-maker to see and consider the person’s facial expressions and body language
 
  
==Check with the registry of the court or decision-maker==
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===In some situations, parties can ask to attend court by phone===
If you want to appear in court by phone, check rules and deadlines with the registry of the court or other decision-maker.  
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In some situations, parties may be able to attend court by phone. But parties will need to get court approval — in advance.
  
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For example, in [http://canlii.ca/t/8lld BC Supreme Court], a party in a civil case can apply to court to have an application heard by phone or videoconference.
  
==Examples==
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In [http://canlii.ca/t/8571 Small Claims Court], certain types of hearings can be held by phone:
  
===Small claims court===
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* if a party does not live or carry on business within a reasonable distance from the court location, or
Under Rule 17(16) of the [http://www.bclaws.ca/Recon/document/ID/freeside/261_93_04 small claims rules], a hearing, other than a trial or hearing requiring sworn evidence, may be held by phone if a person does not live or carry on business within a reasonable distance from the hearing location, or if exceptional circumstances exist. Rule 16.1(7) says that in addition to this, a judge may hear an application (except if sworn evidence may be required) by phone if all parties consent or the registrar is satisfied that no party will suffer prejudice from a phone hearing.
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* if exceptional circumstances exist.
  
Rule 17(16.1) says an application for a phone hearing must be made under Rule 16(3) to a registrar. The latter rule requires applicants to use Form 16, follow instructions on the form, and then file it at the registry.
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(The option of a phone hearing in Small Claims Court does '''not''' apply for a trial or a hearing requiring sworn evidence.)
  
==Other provincial court divisions and other decision-makers==
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A party seeking to have a phone hearing in Small Claims Court must apply to court by completing an '''application to the registrar''' (in Form 16). See the court’s Filing Assistant at [https://justice.gov.bc.ca/FilingAssistant/alphaIndex.do justice.gov.bc.ca] for instructions.
Procedures in family, traffic, and criminal cases, and in cases before other BC decision-makers differ. Most of these courts and decision-makers require a request—before the hearing—based on exceptional circumstances before they will make an order allowing a phone appearance.  
 
  
Rules for witnesses (people who testify) at hearings differ. Witnesses must sometimes testify in person. Other times, they are required, or allowed, to testify by a formal written statement, sworn or affirmed before a lawyer, notary public, or court official.
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Generally speaking, a court may '''decline''' the request for a party to attend by phone if the court thinks someone needs to appear in person to:
  
Other rules apply to other participants, including interpreters, support people, observers, and others.
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* confirm their identity
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* reduce the risk of unseen and improper influences
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* make procedures, like viewing of documents, easier
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* allow the judge or other decision-maker to see and consider the person’s facial expressions and body language
  
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{| class="wikitable"
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|align="left"|'''Tip'''
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'''Check with the court'''. If you want to appear in court by phone, check rules and deadlines with the registry of the court for the case you’re involved in.
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|}
  
[updated January 2018]
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===Rules for tribunals vary, but many offer phone hearings===
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'''A tribunal''' is a body that hears disputes and makes decisions in a specific area. It is like a court but less formal. The BC Human Rights Tribunal, which deals with human rights complaints, is an example of a tribunal.
  
'''The above was last reviewed for accuracy and edited by John Blois.'''
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Every tribunal follows its own set of rules and procedures.
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Telephone hearings are a common way for tribunals to resolve matters. Some let parties choose the type of hearing they would like to have. The tribunal may post this information on its website or it may contact parties directly to give them this advice.
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If a hearing is to take place by telephone, the tribunal will set the date, time and contact information for the hearing and notify the parties. If a party who has been notified does not participate, the tribunal may proceed with the hearing and make a decision without hearing from that party.
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{| class="wikitable"
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|align="left"|'''Tip'''
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'''Check with the tribunal'''. Check the tribunal’s website or give them a phone call to ask about their support for telephone hearings. The AdminLawBC Online Help Guide at [https://www.adminlawbc.ca/how-to-prepare/telephone-hearings adminlawbc.ca] has a list of tribunals in BC, and tips for participating in telephone hearings.
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|}
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===If you are a witness===
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If you have information relevant for a court case, you may be called as a '''witness''' to tell the court ('''testify''') about what you know. Under [https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/stat/rsbc-1996-c-124/latest/rsbc-1996-c-124.html#sec73_smooth BC law], a witness may be permitted to testify in a court proceeding by '''videoconference'''.
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The party calling the witness must give notice to the court and the other party ''at least five days before'' the witness is scheduled to testify.
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It’s open to the other party to object to the witness appearing by videoconference. If they do, the court has to consider whether testifying in this way would be “contrary to the principles of fundamental justice." The court can consider factors such as the location and circumstances of the witness, the costs involved for the witness to be physically present, and the nature of the witness’ evidence. The onus is on the party seeking to exclude videoconferencing.
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Latest revision as of 20:56, 27 October 2020

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Adam Roberts, Adam J. Roberts in January 2018.

In some situations, parties may be able to attend court by telephone. But they will need to get court approval — in advance. Telephone hearings are more available before tribunals.

What you should know[edit]

Normally, parties must attend court in person[edit]

In a court proceeding in BC, the people directly involved in the lawsuit (called the parties) must usually attend in person at any court hearing, or have a lawyer appear on their behalf.

If a party does not show up, a court may rule against them.

This rule applies generally to proceedings in Provincial Court and Supreme Court in BC. There are some exceptions, however, where parties can ask to attend court by phone. We explain these here.

In some situations, parties can ask to attend court by phone[edit]

In some situations, parties may be able to attend court by phone. But parties will need to get court approval — in advance.

For example, in BC Supreme Court, a party in a civil case can apply to court to have an application heard by phone or videoconference.

In Small Claims Court, certain types of hearings can be held by phone:

  • if a party does not live or carry on business within a reasonable distance from the court location, or
  • if exceptional circumstances exist.

(The option of a phone hearing in Small Claims Court does not apply for a trial or a hearing requiring sworn evidence.)

A party seeking to have a phone hearing in Small Claims Court must apply to court by completing an application to the registrar (in Form 16). See the court’s Filing Assistant at justice.gov.bc.ca for instructions.

Generally speaking, a court may decline the request for a party to attend by phone if the court thinks someone needs to appear in person to:

  • confirm their identity
  • reduce the risk of unseen and improper influences
  • make procedures, like viewing of documents, easier
  • allow the judge or other decision-maker to see and consider the person’s facial expressions and body language
Tip

Check with the court. If you want to appear in court by phone, check rules and deadlines with the registry of the court for the case you’re involved in.

Rules for tribunals vary, but many offer phone hearings[edit]

A tribunal is a body that hears disputes and makes decisions in a specific area. It is like a court but less formal. The BC Human Rights Tribunal, which deals with human rights complaints, is an example of a tribunal.

Every tribunal follows its own set of rules and procedures.

Telephone hearings are a common way for tribunals to resolve matters. Some let parties choose the type of hearing they would like to have. The tribunal may post this information on its website or it may contact parties directly to give them this advice.

If a hearing is to take place by telephone, the tribunal will set the date, time and contact information for the hearing and notify the parties. If a party who has been notified does not participate, the tribunal may proceed with the hearing and make a decision without hearing from that party.

Tip

Check with the tribunal. Check the tribunal’s website or give them a phone call to ask about their support for telephone hearings. The AdminLawBC Online Help Guide at adminlawbc.ca has a list of tribunals in BC, and tips for participating in telephone hearings.

If you are a witness[edit]

If you have information relevant for a court case, you may be called as a witness to tell the court (testify) about what you know. Under BC law, a witness may be permitted to testify in a court proceeding by videoconference.

The party calling the witness must give notice to the court and the other party at least five days before the witness is scheduled to testify.

It’s open to the other party to object to the witness appearing by videoconference. If they do, the court has to consider whether testifying in this way would be “contrary to the principles of fundamental justice." The court can consider factors such as the location and circumstances of the witness, the costs involved for the witness to be physically present, and the nature of the witnessevidence. The onus is on the party seeking to exclude videoconferencing.

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