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START OF Policies and procedures
START OF Case management and practice management standards
END OF Case management and practice management standards
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Legal Aid Queensland is monitoring the Commonwealth and Queensland Government announcements and health advice in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, temporary changes to Legal Aid Queensland’s Case Management Standards have been implemented.
Face-to-face appointments should be limited. The lawyer should consider how instructions can be obtained electronically such as telephone, video calls and email. If a face-to-face appointment is required, then strict hygiene and social distancing measures should be adhered to.
Lawyers should ensure they have access to the following:
Inform clients and other parties how you will be contactable during the COVID-19 pandemic. As many lawyers are communicating via an electronic platform only, lawyers should check clients, self-represented litigants and other parties have ability to communicate via this platform also. If a person has limited access to computer facilities, the lawyer will ensure a paper version of the communication is supplied in a timely manner.
When lawyers are communicating by telephone or electronic means with a client, the lawyer should (if appropriate) conduct additional identification and safety assessment including:
Lawyer’s should familiarise themselves with Legal Aid Queensland’s dedicated COVID-19 announcements page for any future updates or changes, accessible at the following link.
The Family and Federal Circuit Courts are regularly publishing notices and practice directions regarding the management of court matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers should regularly review the court websites for updates:
Joint Practice Direction Special Measures in Response to COVID-19 (JPD 2 of 2020) states (in summary):
Joint Practice Direction The COVID-19 List (JPD 3 of 2020) states (in summary):
When filing documents that require personal service, such as Initiating Applications, the lawyer should consider whether personal service will be possible due to lockdowns and restrictions.
The lawyer should consider whether seeking an order for substituted service via email may be more appropriate.
The Family and Federal Circuit Courts continue to operate electronically and via Microsoft Teams. Lawyers should be familiar with the relevant practice directions and notices published on the Court websites.
On 3 April 2020, the court issued a notice stating that all interviews conducted by Child Dispute Services will occur electronically, unless in exceptional circumstances. Please refer to the Court’s published notices for updates to this.
Lawyers may also experience difficulties in arranging family reports with private report writers, as most report writers will only be able to conduct interviews by telephone, limiting their ability to observe and assess relationships of parties and children. Reports conducted by telephone may have limited weight. Consideration should be given to not proceeding with commissioning a report at this time. If such a report is obtained by the Independent Childrens Lawyer (ICL), there will be no guarantee of a further grant of aid for an updated family report.
Independent Childrens Lawyers should consider whether it is appropriate to meet a child/young person in a face to face meeting while the current restrictions are in place. Consider whether other ways of meeting with the child are appropriate (e.g. telephone or video conferencing). See COVID-19 Good practice guide for lawyers - meeting with children via technology factsheet for further information.
The courts have released information and resources to assist parties with compliance with parenting orders due to COVID-19 and they are published on the court websites.
Until further notice, conferencing will occur by telephone only. Lawyers, and their clients if attending from a different location to their lawyer, must have access to a landline telephone to participate in the conference. Legal Aid Queensland cannot facilitate attendance by mobile phone due to confidentiality and security reasons.
Communication with the conference organiser should be by email to the conference organiser directly, or if unknown, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The conference organiser may ask additional screening questions in relation to the lawyer and clients:
Practical consideration will need to be given to the signing of documents by electronic and/or physical means.
If a client is attending the conference at a different location to their lawyer, the lawyer should discuss practical issues with their client prior to the conference date, including:
Attendance by videoconference is currently under investigation and the legal profession and participants will be notified upon approval.
The Magistrates Court has published practice directions regarding the management of court matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawyer should regularly review the court website for updates. There are different practice directions depending on regions. For the most recent practice directions please visit the Queensland Courts website.
New statutory declaration arrangements have been made by the courts to ensure clients are still able to file Applications for Protection Orders where they are unable to physically attend court, Justice of the Peace or lawyer’s office. Consider the options available and tailor advice regarding options to the client and their COVID-19 limitations.
On 16 March 2020, Legal Aid Queensland suspended the provision of face to face domestic and family violence, child protection and family law duty lawyer services by in-house lawyers and now offers a telephone duty lawyer service.
Parties can access this service by calling 1300 267 762 no later than 3 days prior to their court date to seek telephone legal advice.
It is noted that local arrangements have been made for duty lawyer services across the State. Local arrangements for duty lawyer sessions must not include a face-to-face service with clients for the purpose of providing advice and taking instructions. All legal advice sessions must be conducted remotely. This applies to LAQ staff, contractor preferred suppliers and community legal centres. Local arrangements for appearance as duty lawyer at court events will vary depending on the resources available to the Court and relevant stakeholders.
Duty Lawyer session reports should be completed in the usual way by preferred suppliers and in-house lawyers should follow the instructions in the COVID-19 Resource folder located in RM8 . If work is done remotely outside the day of the callover, but in relation to matters listed for that callover, the time should be captured as a cumulative total of time spent in relation to that callover.
If a conflict of interest is identified, please refer the client to Legal Aid Queensland.
When conducting telephone duty lawyer services, the lawyer must:
For domestic and family violence matters, rostered duty lawyers (aggrieved & respondent) for each court, should keep each other informed (or the court, if applicable) of their email and telephone contact details should the opportunity for negotiations prior to court/or organising urgent appearances arise.
The Magistrates Court has published practice directions regarding the management of court matters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent COVID-19 Practice Direction (PD4/2020 Childrens Court (Magistrates Courts amended 7 April 2020) is accessible here.
Some registries are not strictly complying with the practice directions. As such, lawyers should also liaise with the registry to ensure that they are aware of how that particular registry is managing their list.
Temporary changes to the case management standards to be consisted with health advice, and government office closures, are as follows:
Consider your client’s information privacy and ability to communicate in these circumstances. Are they able to talk freely if they live with a domestic violence perpetrator, do they have email access and are computer literate and is there a risk that someone else might access their emails?
Practitioners should consider whether the risk of domestic violence is likely to increase as a result of parents isolating together and consider whether an application should be made for a Protection Order. If an application is made for a lengthy adjournment on the basis of COVID-19, consider what can occur in the interim and what else can be done to progress the matter.
While court registries are still open, many registries are accepting documents by email. If you are issuing subpoenas, you will need to give consideration as to how the subpoena can be served and conduct money is going to be paid. You should be prepared to make submission with respect to service and also consider the logistical difficulties of inspecting the subpoenaed material.
If you are concerned that COVID-19 may affect the trial proceeding, seek that the matter be brought on to obtain further directions. Also consider whether trial material can be deposed to in a different manner. For example, you could seek directions that the client not be required to have an affidavit witnessed or file an unsigned copy of the document noting that the client will swear the contents are true in the witness box.
QLS has created a resource to provide information to members on the evolving COVID-19 situation and the response of the Courts and Tribunals in Queensland as soon as the information becomes available. QLS will continue to communicate regularly with the Courts and will update members on any new developments. Information is accessible via the following link.