UPDATED PROTOCOL: Court Operations - COVID-19
Please select here for updated details of the Court's Operations for COVID-19.
09 June 2020
NOTE: An earlier version of this document was published on 21 May 2020 This document was replaced with the version published on 09 June 2020 (see above).
MEDIA RELEASE: NSW Supreme Court moves towards resuming face-to-face hearings
The NSW Supreme Court today announced its first steps towards reopening to parties and the public, as government restrictions ease around the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSW Chief Justice Tom Bathurst said some face-to-face civil hearings would resume on 1 June 2020, followed by criminal jury trials from 29 June 2020.
"For the first time in living memory, personal appearances were essentially banned in our courtrooms two months ago to help minimise the spread of the virus," Chief Justice Bathurst said.
"I am pleased to outline a return to in-court hearings, in a measured and staged approach that protects the health and wellbeing of all court users."
Some civil hearings with limited parties, witnesses and legal representatives will be able to return to the courtroom in a fortnight's time. Those involving multiple parties and witnesses will follow in stage two, with directions hearings, judges' and registrars' lists and court-annexed mediations to return in the final stage. It is envisaged that because of the improved technology, some of the lists will continue to be dealt with online.
Criminal jury trials will resume at the end of June but will require at least two courtrooms each to accommodate social distancing requirements.
Chief Justice Bathurst thanked the legal profession and court staff for their extraordinary efforts in keeping the Court almost fully operational during recent months.
"The move to virtual courtrooms, seemingly overnight, created unprecedented disruption to our usual processes," he said.
"The shift to a remote system of justice was not without its technical challenges, yet I am confident we are getting better each day, and I see an innovative and flexible future ahead."
"Remarkably, the Court has continued to operate essentially at its normal capacity, with Judges hearing close to 20 matters per day, including contested interlocutory applications. Judges and Registrars, dealing with case-management, are hearing over 500 matters per week."
"To have continued listing cases at such a high level is a credit to everyone involved."
The Chief Justice said of the civil hearings and special fixtures listed in the Common Law Division for 19 months between March 2020 and October 2021, only seven have been vacated due to COVID-19.
During the shutdown, the Equity Judges have, on average, been hearing 12 contested interlocutory and final hearings per day and providing case-management to over 200 cases per week.
Both the Court of Appeal and the Court of Criminal Appeal have heard all appeals that were scheduled for hearing in March, April and May, and no appeals have been vacated because of the shutdown. In that same period, the Court of Appeal has delivered 68 judgments and the Court of Criminal Appeal 70 judgments.
Thirteen criminal trials were delayed due to the pandemic, and five accused (in a further four trials) have taken the option for trial by judge-alone.
An average of 40 bail applications are being heard and determined by Judges per week.
As the NSW Supreme Court slowly and safely reopens its courtrooms, all reasonable steps and precautions will be taken to minimise the risk of transmission of COVID-19 including:
staggered courtroom start and finish times, commencing at 9am and sitting up to 5pm
new jury selection procedures
temperature checks for court users
visual guidance in courtrooms to follow physical distancing requirements
hand sanitiser stations
increased cleaning and disinfecting, focusing on high traffic areas.
20 May 2020
Updated factsheet for The Virtual Courtroom
The Registry has issued an updated factsheet for The Virtual Courtroom that updates an earlier version published in late March. The factsheet provides information to practitioners and participants who appear before the Supreme Court using the Virtual Courtroom (or 'CMS') audio-visual link system.
The updated version includes information about a test link that parties can use ahead of their appearance.
30 April 2020
Arraignments List - Procedural Directions
- Consistent with the announcement of the Chief Justice on 23 March 2020 published on the Supreme Court website, there will be no appearances, in person, in the arraignments list either by practitioners or an accused until further notice.
- In accordance with the procedures in ss 22C(3) and (4) of the Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act 1998 (NSW), introduced following the passage of the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures) Act 2020 (NSW), it is intended that the appearance of practitioners and the accused will be via AVL.
- Section 22C(5) of the Evidence (Audio and Audio Visual Links) Act operates in the context of the arraignments list by providing that the Court may direct that an accused and their legal representative, and a legal representative for the Crown, are to appear by audio visual link "but only after the parties have had an opportunity to be heard".
- Any practitioner who wishes to be heard on that question should furnish a written submission to the Criminal List Judge's chambers (and copied to the Crown) no later than midday the day before the arraignments list is to be called over setting out the basis upon which an order under s 22C is resisted. The submission will be considered in chambers and the parties advised by email whether a direction under s 22C will be made or not.
- An accused who is in custody will continue to appear via the established AVL system which connects the Court to NSW Correctional Centres.
- Where an accused in custody does not wish to appear via the established AVL system or where an accused is on bail and does not wish to appear via the Virtual Courtroom, the accused's legal representatives are to send an email to the Criminal List Judge's chambers (and copied to the Crown) no later than midday the day before the list is to be called over. The request will be considered in chambers and the parties advised by email whether there will be a direction that the accused appear via AVL or via the Virtual Courtroom as the case may be.
- Legal practitioners appearing in the arraignments list are to advise the Criminal List Judge's chambers by email of their intended appearance (first initial and surname) no later than midday on the day before the arraignments list is to be convened. Details to connect to the Virtual Courtroom will be provided in a reply email.
- Until further notice the arraignments list will convene at 11:00am on the first and third Friday of each month.
- The matters in the arraignments list will be called over by the Criminal List Judge at the time allocated and in the order in which they appear on the Court List on the Supreme Court website. Please note the times allocated are an estimate only. However, practitioners (and an accused not in custody) should ensure they have joined the Virtual Courtroom in advance of the time allocated to ensure that when their matter is called the practitioner (and the accused) are available to appear.
- When connecting to the Virtual Courtroom, a practitioner should provide the following details:
- number in the list
- party represented (Crown or accused);
- first initial of practitioner's given name;
- practitioner's surname
- Practitioners using a web browser to connect to the Virtual Courtroom are encouraged to use either the latest version of Google Chrome or Firefox.
- To minimise the risk of disconnection, practitioners are encouraged to use a hard-wired Internet connection (by plugging their device directly into a router or modem) in preference to use of a wireless connection.
- If a practitioner is disconnected from the Virtual Courtroom during the proceedings, they should re-join using the link provided.
- For further information a fact sheet, published by the Court to assist participants in navigating the Virtual Courtroom environment, is here.
- To minimise noise and feedback during the proceedings, practitioners should ensure their devices are on mute and cameras off until their matter is called. Devices will need to be unmuted and cameras activated when practitioners address the Court.
- Where solicitors instructing counsel appear, both the video and audio to their device should remain off at all times.
Note - Judge alone trials
- Attention is also drawn to the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment Act and the consequential amendment to s 365 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) relating to Judge alone trials ("JAT") utilising the facility of the Virtual Courtroom. The parties are encouraged to consider whether a JAT is feasible in the circumstances of the particular trial
- If the consent of the accused to a JAT is forthcoming, then the Crown should advise the accused and the Court of its position without delay.
15 April 2020
From 23 March 2020, all Probate List cases and family provision applications will be case managed by Justice P Hallen as the Succession Judge.
There will be no changes to the current listings of Probate List case or family provision applications unless the parties are notified of any change.
There is no change to the lodgement of new cases: They should be lodged in the Probate List or Equity General (Family Provision) List as appropriate.
Future directions hearings in both Probate List cases and family provision applications will be listed on Fridays before Justice Hallen. Matters so listed, that are likely to be of more than 15 minutes duration, will be removed from the Friday list, and will be listed on the following Monday before his Honour.
If the legal practitioners in a matter, or associated matters, jointly request his Honour, no later than 9:00 a.m. two working days before the Friday on which the matter is listed, to have the matter removed from the Friday list and placed into the Monday list the matter will be removed in advance of the Friday list.
If that request is not made in a timely manner, the matter, or associated matters, will remain in the Friday list but be adjourned to a Monday convenient to the Court.
08 April 2020
Court of Appeal additional requirements for the filing of Appeal Books and White Folders
Until further notice, parties should, in addition to the current requirements for the filing of physical copies of Red, Orange, Blue and Black Books, and White Folders in the case of Summonses for leave to appeal, also provide an electronic copy of those books to the Court. The Registrar will accept USBs, CDs, and DVDs. Emails with links to documents may be accepted by prior arrangement with the Registrar.
The delivering of physical copies or USB electronic copies of appeal books or White Folders can be made to the foyer of the Registry by prior arrangement with the Registry.
Uplifting of books and folders for updating, and the uplifting of lower court files can also occur by prior arrangement with the Registry.
Enquiries should be made by email addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
31 March 2020
Guidelines for Equity and Common Law Duty List matters published
27 March 2020
NSW Supreme Court Judges to forego annual remuneration review
NSW Supreme Court Judges have today resolved not to seek an annual remuneration review in light of present circumstances.
Chief Justice Tom Bathurst said his colleagues had agreed to forego any potential salary increase this year.
"Judges are in a privileged and relatively protected position compared to the great bulk of the community, many of whom are already feeling the devastating effects of what has occurred so far due to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"Supreme Court Judges are unanimous that it would be inappropriate for us to seek a pay rise in such circumstances."
Judges' salaries in NSW are set by the Statutory and Other Offices Remuneration Tribunal (SOORT), which seeks submissions each year.
Chief Justice Bathurst said he would advise SOORT that the submission of Supreme Court Judges is for no pay increase in 2020.
25 March 2020
Protocol for the Commercial List, Technology & Construction
List and Commercial Arbitration List
Henceforth and until further notice, the usual Friday Commercial List, Technology and Construction List and Commercial Arbitration List will not be conducted in open Court.
Matters not disposed of by consent will be dealt with as follows:
The time for consent directions to be sent to his Honour Justice Hammerschlag will be extended to 4.00pm on Thursday prior to the List Day. Where there is no consent the parties are to forward to his Honour by 12.00 noon on the Friday List Day a brief position paper, (not exceeding one page for directions and two pages for motions) identifying what is in dispute and their respective positions on it.
If a hearing date is requested a range of mutual hearing dates should be provided.
His Honour will then determine matters in dispute on the papers unless a hearing is necessary and appropriate. If a party considers a hearing to be necessary and appropriate, it should state this and give reasons why. If a hearing is to be held it is likely to be by audio link or video link. The parties will be notified and arrangements made.
Matters which are not the subject of consent provided to the Associate by 12.00 noon on Thursday will appear in the list, notwithstanding that consent orders may be made later.
Enquiries are to be directed to his Honour's Associate, Colleen Sutton, by email.
25 March 2020
Changes to Court of Appeal authorities procedure
Please see the following notice published by Justice AS Bell, President of the Court of Appeal:
24 March 2020
Updates to procedures relating to Corporations and Real Property Lists
Please note that recently published guidelines have been updated in relation to the following Court lists:
- The Corporations List
- The Real Property List
23 March 2020
COVID-19 – Changes to Court Operations
It is essential for the wellbeing of the community and the maintenance of the rule of law that the Court continues to operate to the extent possible in the current challenging environment.
The Court is responding to the developing COVID-19 pandemic by reviewing all operations to ensure all essential services are maintained and non-essential services continue for as long as practicable, consistent with health advice.
The Court is equipped to utilise online court, audio visual equipment and digital technology to allow matters to continue remotely.
The Court's paramount consideration remains the wellbeing of all court users. Everyone must adhere to health advice in relation to social distancing, self-isolation, hygiene and the management of symptoms.
No personal appearances
In line with the current health advice, on and from Tuesday, 24 March 2020 there shall be no personal appearances in any matters save in exceptional circumstances with the leave of the Chief Justice or head of jurisdiction. This also applies to unrepresented litigants.
The Court will contact parties in relation to future listings to advise of the video and teleconference facilities available for their specific matter. Listings may alter at short notice and practitioners should refer to the Court's website for updates and review the daily listing notices.
Electronic delivery of documents
The Court will require all Court documents to be provided by electronic means through
- Online Court;
- Online registry
Only where facilities do not presently exist for documentation to be provided electronically will those documents will be received by email. Details regarding email contacts for documentation will be provided shortly via the Court's website.
Public Registry and Duty Registrar
The public registry will remain open on Monday, 23 March 2020 until 4:00pm. The public registry will be closed on and from Tuesday, 24 March 2020. Contact details for the Court Registry are on the Court's website.
Face-to-face duty registrar services will also be suspended. Telephone appointments will continue.
Current jury trials
Current jury trials will continue. Current trials already adhere to health advice in relation to social distancing. New jury trials are temporarily suspended.
Court annexed mediation
Face-to-face Court annexed mediations will be temporarily suspended from [Monday, 23 March 2020]. Further information relating to Court annexed mediations will follow shortly. Mediations can proceed by way of teleconference.
The Court will be reviewing all operations with a view to maintaining open justice, consistent with the current constraints and health advice.
Further information can be found at:
23 March 2020
Announcement re. the Probate and Family Provision Lists
From 23 March 2020, the Probate List and the Family Provision List will be amalgamated into what will be called the Succession List. All Probate and family provision matters will be case managed by Justice P Hallen.
There will be no changes to the current Probate or family provision listing unless the parties are notified of any change.
It is likely that future directions hearings in both Probate and family provision matters will be listed on a Friday before the Succession List Judge. Matters so listed, that are likely to be of more than 15 minutes duration, will be removed from the Friday list, and will be listed on the following Monday before his Honour. If the legal practitioners in a matter, or associated matters, jointly request his Honour, no later than 9:00 a.m. two working days before the Friday on which the matter is listed, to have the matter removed from the Friday Succession List and place it in the Monday Succession List the matter will be removed in advance of the Friday List.
If that request is not made in a timely manner, the matter, or associated matters, will remain in, but be adjourned, from the Friday List to a Monday convenient to the Court.
20 March 2020
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ADVICE ABOVE HAS BEEN UPDATED ON 08 APRIL 2020
Changes to arrangements for registrar lists
Registrars' Lists will be conducted as much as possible either by the online court, where available, or by telephone link and, in the case of contentious matters, by videolink. The parties ARE NOT required to inform the court in advance whether they will be using video or teleconference facilities. All parties with an email address in JusticeLink will be contacted by email with information regarding connecting to the specific court for their listing via video and teleconference. General information regarding the conduct of video and teleconference lists is available here. All parties are strongly encouraged to use the Online Court, where available, telephone or video conference facilities for Registrars' lists and to not attend in person.
18 March 2020
Guidelines and Fact Sheet for participants in Supreme Court Lists
The Court publishes the following Guidelines to assist participants in the following Court Lists:
- The Expedition, Adoption and Defamation Lists
- The Real Property List (revised 23.3.20)
- The Family Provision List
- The Corporations List (revised 23.3.20)
In addition, the Court has published a Fact Sheet to assist participants in the Virtual Courtroom environment:
17 March 2020
A joint announcement of the Supreme Court of NSW and the District Court of NSW
New Jury Trials to be temporarily suspended from Monday, 16 March 2020
The Chief Justice, the Hon TF Bathurst AC, and Chief Judge of the District Court, the Hon D Price AM, today announced that due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) new jury trials commencing across NSW from Monday, 16 March 2020, will be temporarily suspended whilst the empanelment process is reviewed and steps are taken to seek to limit the close social contact amongst jurors which is a feature of jury trials. Current trials, where a jury has already been selected and empanelled, will continue.
This decision has been made in response to the Australian Government's advice to limit large gatherings and close social contact over an extended period of time.
Jury service plays an important role in our justice system and the Courts will be assisted by members of the NSW Chief Medical Officer's team to review and amend the current empanelment process to follow current health guidelines.
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 Court continues to monitor the health advice from the Australian and NSW Government's health departments in relation to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The health and safety of all court users remains of paramount importance whilst maintaining access to justice and essential court services.
The jury system in NSW is administered by the Jury Services Branch of the Office of the Sheriff of New South Wales.
Potential jurors with a summons to attend court should contact the juror information line on 1300 780 199 or visit www.juror.nsw.gov.au.
15 March 2020
Upcoming changes to sitting procedures to minimise the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19)
The Court is carefully monitoring the Commonwealth and State Governments' announcements and health advice relating to coronavirus (COVID-19).
In an endeavour to contain its effects and keep the Court operational as much as possible, the Court will be implementing the following procedures from Monday, 23 March 2020. The primary aim is to minimise the need for parties to come to the Court in the near future.
12 March 2020
Registrars' Lists will be conducted as much as possible either by the online court, where available, or by telephone link and, in the case of contentious matters, by videolink. The parties will be required not less than three (3) business days before their matter is listed before the Registrar to jointly notify the Registrar whether the matter can be dealt with by the online court, telephone, videolink or in person. They will then be given a block of time in which their matter will be heard. Cases in respect of which notification has not been given will be heard in person. Precise arrangements regarding telephone and video hearings will be provided.
A similar approach will be taken in Judges' Lists, subject to specific directions given by the judge administering the list.
In relation to appeals or first instance matters, consideration will be given to dealing with the matters by telephone or Audio Visual Link (AVL).
There will be no changes to the way the Criminal Lists, such as Bails and Arraignments, and current Supreme Court Jury trials are currently being heard.