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44 U.N.S.W.L.J. 126 (2021)
The Courts, the Remote Hearing and the Pandemic: From Action to Reflection

handle is hein.journals/swales44 and id is 133 raw text is: UNSW Law Journal

THE COURTS, THE REMOTE HEARING AND THE PANDEMIC:
FROM ACTION TO REFLECTION
MICHAEL LEGG* AND ANTHONY SONG**
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts around the world
rapidly shifted to remote hearings. Balancing public health directives
with the need to continue upholding the rule of law, what followed
was the largest, unforeseen mass-pilot of remote hearings across the
world. For courts this was necessarily a time of action, not reflection.
However, after having maintained court operations, it is now
necessary to reflect on the experience ofremote courts and their users
during an otherwise unprecedented situation. Unlike previous
iterations of remote hearings, the COVID-19 experience was fully
remote - whereby all participants took part in the hearing remotely.
The difficulty is until now, almost no prior empirical data has existed
on this type of fully remote hearing with the majority of previous
research focused on the use of audiovisual links (AVLs') to facilitate
partially remote appearances within courtrooms. To bridge the
research and data gap on fully remote hearings, this article draws on
the previous body of literature to both examine the COVID-19
experience, and to assist in guiding future research and use of remote
hearings.
I INTRODUCTION
On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the public health
crisis under COVID-19 a pandemic.' In a matter of weeks the world shifted to
digital ways of working under government directives to social distance and self-
isolate. As open public spaces,2 courts in particular were forced to pivot to remote
*   Professor and Director of the Law Society of New South Wales Future of Law and Innovation in the
Profession (FLIP) Research Stream, Faculty of Law and Justice, University of New South Wales
(UNSW).
**  Final year law student and research assistant with the FLIP stream, UNSW. The authors would like to
thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments. This research was undertaken with the support of the
Law Society of NSW.
1   Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 'WHO Director-General's Opening Remarks at the Media Briefing on
COVID-19 - 11 March 2020' (Speech, 11 March 2020).
2    See, eg, Dennis W Quirk, 'Verified Complaint and Jury Demand', Submission in Quirk v DiFiore,
(SDNY, 20-CV-05027-CS, 30 June 2020) [23]. A labour union initiated a class action against the New
York Southern District Court alleging the Court's inadequate safety standards had 'created a breeding
ground for and spread of COVID-19'.

126

Volume 44(1)

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