Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Coronavirus update for the ACT legal profession

Last update: Wednesday 3 June 2020, 9am.

The Society is monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely and will update this page as necessary.

The offices of the Society are now closed to external visitors. Only staff will be admitted except by prior arrangement. To contact the Law Society, please phone us on 6274 0300 or email mail@actlawsociety.asn.au.

Members are encouraged to refer to the following resources:


ACT Law Society updates

Practising Certificate renewals and fees

The Council of the ACT Law Society has agreed to implement a number of measures in 2020/21, including offering practising certificate fee relief. We have ensured that some relief will be provided to all members, and especially to those members most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. [read more]

Settlements Office

In order to allow the settlements room to keep functioning, a maximum of 25 people are permitted in the room at any one time, and government-mandated social distancing and cleanliness must be maintained. Practitioners are requested to use agents where possible to achieve this reduction. The priority for the Society is the health of those using the room. Please do not attend Settlements if you, or anybody you are in close contact with, is experiencing even mild cold or flu symptoms.

Event cancellations

All Law Society events have been cancelled, including CPD seminars and social functions, until further notice. If you have bought tickets for a Law Society function, your ticket will be fully refunded.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Any member who was unable to attend training in the lead-up to the 31 March 2020 CPD deadline should apply for an extension of time to complete their CPD requirements. Extensions will be granted until 30 September 2020. We encourage members to complete online training and webinar options over the coming months. Please email extension forms to carissa.webster@actlawsociety.com.au.

Committee meetings

Committee meetings are currently proceeding at the discretion of the individual committees, and may be held by teleconference, postponed, or cancelled on a case-by-case basis. Committee members will be informed of any changes.

Room hire

No room hire bookings will be taken until further notice.

Legal advice services

The Legal Advice Bureau will not operate until further notice.

Appointments with the Pro Bono Clearing House will be conducted by phone.


ACT Community Legal Centres

ACT Community Legal Centres are continuing to deliver essential legal assistance and other support to the most vulnerable members of the Canberra community during the current COVID-19 outbreak. All ACT Community Legal Services are currently delivering services by phone, video or online.

Canberra Community Law have launched a website covering common legal areas that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Courts updates

ACT Supreme Court and ACT Magistrates Court

Commencing 15 June 2020, the Supreme Court will resume jury trials in cases where Court facilities and resources mean that social distancing and other health safety measures can be achieved for jurors, accused persons, witnesses, legal practitioners, and Court staff. All Court attendees will be required to cooperate with measures deemed appropriate by Court and security staff, including temperature testing. For a significant number of matters (including matters involving multiple accused), it will not be feasible to conduct jury trials in the near future.

Commencing 2 June 2020, Magistrates Court operations will resume significantly, with hygiene and social distancing measures remaining in place. People attending the ACT Law Courts building should allow extra time to pass through security noting there may be considerable delays due to physical distancing measures.

ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT)

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have closed our ACAT counter. The level 4 entry to our premises is also closed. Unless you are advised otherwise cases that are already listed for a conference, hearing or mediation will continue and you need to organise to attend the tribunal by telephone or videolink for these listings. There will be listing delays for some new cases.

You can contact us by email at tribunal@act.gov.au or by phone on (02) 6207 1740. 

High Court of Australia

The High Court of Australia will not be sitting in Canberra or on circuit in the months of April, May and June. The question of future sittings will be reviewed in June. The Court will continue to deliver judgments and deal with special leave applications including hearings as necessary at individual registries and will hear any urgent matters that may arise by video link between registries and Canberra. Any enquiries should be directed to enquiries@hcourt.gov.au.

From Tuesday 24 March 2020, no face to face services will be provided at the counter. 

Federal Court of Australia

The Courts are prioritising urgent and critical cases as the impact of COVID-19 escalates. In order to protect our staff and all visitors to our buildings, we have decided to close our public facing counters and cease face-to face services from Tuesday 24 March 2020.

In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone. You can contact us on 1300 720 980.

If practitioners are involved in current proceedings before the Court that are impacted by COVID-19, they are encouraged to direct enquiries for assistance, such as necessary adjournments, variations to timetables or preparation for hearings, to Tuan Van Le, National Judicial Registrar, Phone (03) 8600 334.

Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia

The Courts have established a court list dedicated to dealing exclusively with urgent family law disputes that have arisen as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A streamlined filing process has been established, where cases that meet the criteria will be allocated a first Court date within 3 business days.

In addition to Practice Direction No 2, Local arrangements for Canberra include any subpoena viewing or file inspection will be done by appointment only, this is to ensure that social distancing and a cleaning regime is in place.  Wherever possible if the matter has an interim or final hearing within 4 weeks, you should contact the registry for an appointment, if it is photocopy access and the material has been produced electronically the registry staff will provide by email upon written request.  

If the matter has been listed urgently before the Court  or you require urgent access to the information, a letter to the Registrar explaining the reasons for urgency should be sent to canberra@familycourt.gov.au, this may result in inspection or copying that is not as urgent to be postponed to another time.

Photocopy access will not be made to documents including a child welfare record, criminal record, medical record or police record, in accordance with sub-rule 15.30(2) of the Family Law Rules 2004 and sub-rule 15A.13(2) of the Federal Circuit Court Rules 2001.

In urgent circumstances, face-to-face services may be provided after initial assessment via telephone. You can contact us on the following numbers:

  • Family law enquiries: 1300 352 000
  • General Federal Law enquiries: 1300 720 980

Assistance, including necessary adjournments, should be directed at first instance, to Michael Raine via michael.raine@familycourt.gov.au or (08) 8219 1641.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The President has issued five special measures practice directions that set out how the AAT will operate while COVID-19 impacts our services. These are in effect from 29 April 2020 for the following divisions:

Webinars
Guidelines