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Thematic Issue: Rights Protection amidst COVID-19 / General

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 of remote 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. 

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(2021) 44(1) UNSWLJ 126: