‘COVID-safe courtrooms’: Alberta court to resume short trials in June

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Alberta’s superior court will begin to emerge from its COVID-19-induced stasis next month, with the resumption of short trials in “COVID-safe courtrooms.”

The Court of Queen’s Bench announced Friday it would begin hearing certain short, judge-alone criminal trials in person next month — a first since the pandemic forced the court to drastically scale back operations.

Since March 15, the court has been hearing only cases deemed urgent or emergency, adjourning the majority of matters until after the worst of the pandemic.

That remained the case as much of the province began Phase 1 of reopening May 14, leading a frustrated Edmonton law firm to call for an “immediate” resumption of court activities.

In a letter, Liberty Law called on the provincial government to work with the courts, allowing them to “immediately start functioning in accordance with … Alberta Health guidelines” including physical distancing and the use of masks. The letter said the pandemic was making the already significant backlog in cases “untenable.”