The Judge President of the Western Cape has recently issued Directives as to how that Court is to function. Those directives replace various other directives and issued by the Chief Justice and Judge President dated 20 March, 17 March, 6 April and 17 April and 2 May 2020 respectively.
The Court is making every effort to ensure that it continues to function in its quasi-judicial role.
If access to the Court is required then a person would have to wear a cloth mask and social distancing of 1.5 meters is to be maintained. The Court will make available sanitizing liquid at the entrance. Courtrooms will be sanitized before and after a hearing is conducted.
Matters are to proceed with no contact between Court personnel, legal practitioners, witnesses etc. Virtual hearing options will be considered and only on special application by the parties will open court hearings be allowed. For virtual hearing purposes although it is not necessary for the legal representative to robe they will still be required to dress appropriately so as to retain the decorum of the Court.
As many of the Court functions can potentially be fulfilled electronically, and without the presence of the legal representatives, various matters may be attended to in this way. For instance meetings of legal representatives in order to advise the Judge on progress made in preparing the matter for Trial will now take place electronically. A document recording what the parties have attended to and their agreement as to what is still outstanding as well as providing a timeline will be filed with the presiding officer. The presiding officer will then consider same and return a set of directives to the legal practitioners.
Unopposed applications will be dealt with by the presiding officer electronically. If the presiding officer feels that further submissions are required then the judicial officer will request it. The same process will be used for opposed Motions where on receipt of a joint Practice Note from the legal representatives the Judicial Officer will decide whether further submissions, if any, are required.
Our Civil Courts have not been geared towards electronic submission, service and filing of documents nor to the hearing of matters and resolution of matters remotely.
We hope that the personnel are able to equip themselves with these new skills to attend to this smoothly and in addition that resources are made available to the Courts with which to service clients and ensure that justice continues to be done.