A few months ago, I wrote about the steps the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court were taking to address the restrictions and physical distancing requirements imposed by State and Federal governments as a result of COVID-19.
Since that time, nationwide the Courts have continued to conduct over 80% of its work, albeit by video or telephone. Anecdotally, that number is even greater in the Newcastle Registry.
However, as of 15 June 2020 the doors have re-opened…
The Hon. Will Alstergren, Chief Justice of the Family Court and Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, has announced that face-to-face hearings will resume from the week commencing 15 June 2020 for limited matters – being urgent matters which cannot be conducted by video – and restrictions will apply to ensure the safety of the court staff and participants in the hearings.
The restrictions in place include:
- hard copy documents will not be permitted to be handed to the Judge or court staff;
- no more than 8 people are permitted to be in any courtroom (in addition to the Judge and their Associate) and the placement of each individual within the courtroom is prescribed;
- witnesses who are not parties to the proceedings must leave at the conclusion of their evidence;
- commencement times will be staggered to limit the numbers of people in waiting areas and entering through security;
- parties and practitioners are not permitted to be on any level other than the entry level and that of the courtroom in which their matter is being conducted; and must exit the building promptly after the conclusion of the matter.
The Courts will continue to monitor and update the protocol in line with the “re-opening” of the country in general.