Lawyers Weekly Reports On Australia’s Courts Response To COVID19

How our nation’s courts are responding to COVID-19 is their headline.

This is the informationa they have garnered so far


In the ACT, courts are currently operating as usual. ACT courts stated on its website that it is “following [territory] and Commonwealth government advice” regarding COVID-19.


Over the weekend, the Supreme Court of NSW (pictured) announced that new jury trials would be temporarily suspended as of Monday, 16 March. This suspension will be in place whilst the empanelment process is reviewed, the court said in a statement, and steps are taken to seek to limit close social contact between jurors, “which is a feature of jury trials”.

Current trials in which a jury has already been selected and empanelled will continue, it noted.

“Judge alone trials, bail applications and civil trials will not be affected. Steps have already been implemented to enable those matters to proceed taking into account the advice received concerning the virus,” the statement said.

Moreover, the Premier State’s Supreme Court has also flagged changes that will come into effect from Monday, 23 March, which aim to “minimise the need for parties to come to the court in the near future” whilst also keeping the court as operational as possible.

These changes include: registrar’s lists will be conducted “as much as possible” either by the online court or by telephone link, and in some cases, by video link. A similar approach will be taken in judge’s lists, and for appeals or first instance matters, consideration will be given to dealing with matters by telephone or audio-visual link.

However, there will be no changes to the criminal lists.


Over the weekend, it was announced all circuit court services and proceedings will be suspended effective immediately and will not resume until May. Local Court proceedings are continuing for now.

At the Supreme Court level, business is continuing as usual “without modification to the lists” however mentions and pre-trial hearings are to be conducted by audio link where possible, including for prisoners.


In a brief statement posted on its website, the Supreme Court of Queensland noted that “Queensland’s courts remain open and are proceeding as normal.”


Early last week, the Courts Administration Authority posted a statement saying it was monitoring the government’s announcements and advice concerning COVID-19. It has not announced any changes thus far but said it would “ensure that arrangements are in place to mitigate any adverse impacts on the judiciary, our staff and court operations”.


On the Apple Isle, the judges of the Supreme Court of Tasmania have opted to enact arrangements that will avoid the risk of close contact and large number of persons assembled in the court.

“No criminal jury trials are currently in progress, and none will commence this week. However, unless they have been excused, jurors who have received summonses are still required to attend court on Tuesday, 17 March 2020 to enable enquiries to be made, and to receive further instruction,” the court said in a statement.

“It is proposed that jury trials will resume on Monday, 23 March 2020 with new health and safety arrangements in place. The situation will remain under constant review. Further information about the court’s listings will be issued during the week.”

Persons other than jurors, the court continued, will still be required to attend as usual.

“The court will continue to deal with cases but is determined not to put the health of jurors and others at risk,” it said.


In a move similar to that taken by NSW, the Supreme Court of Victoria and the Garden State’s County Court have decided to suspend all new jury trials from Monday, 16 March.

“This means that the jury empanelment process, in which hundreds of potential jurors gather at court, will not take place until further notice. This precautionary decision was made after consideration of the latest expert health and government advice and recognises that members of the community may hold concerns about attending court in large groups,” the Supreme Court said in a statement.

“This suspension does not apply to trials in which the jury has already been empanelled, which will continue as usual. All Victorian Courts and VCAT will continue to hear other matters as usual unless otherwise advised.”

Juries Victoria is currently contacting people across the state who have received summons to attend jury service from the 16th to advise that they should not attend court.

The Supreme Court is developing plans to minimise disruptions during this period and is “exploring alternative methods of managing the jury process”, the statement said.

“The courts acknowledge this is an unprecedented decision and we are confident it is in the best interests of the Victorian community,” it said.


Chief Justice Peter Quinlan posted a statement mid-last week, outlining that court listings and registry services will continue to operate in accordance with usual practice and that all urgent applications to a judge will continue to be dealt with “in the usual way”. Moreover, where possible, arrangements will be made for attendance at hearings via telephone or video link.

“The court’s priority at this time is with the health and safety of its staff and users. The patience of all court users with any disruption to the business of the court is appreciated,” his honour wrote.