As the emergency state is about to end, litigation proceedings are ready to be resumed after 15 of May. For this purpose, the Ministry of Justice issued a series of recommendations aiming to create a set of “ground rules” in order to adapt the judicial proceedings to the new reality, where social distancing and prevention are the key elements in the fight against Covid-19.
However, the Ministry of Justice stated that the issued recommendations are to be considered by every court in line with the general protection and preventive rules. Thus, every court must follow and implement the measures adopted by the authorities, especially by the National Committee for Emergency Situations (in Romanian, Comitetul Național pentru Situații Speciale de Urgență).
You can find below a short summary of the recommendations issued by the Ministry of Justice, which we find very auspicious in the actual context.
Measures regarding the social distancing (minimum 1.5 meters). These measures are meant to be implemented in all courts’ activities, especially in the administrative ones. All direct contacts which cannot take place in line with the social distancing measures should not exceed 15 minutes. Such measures include:
- Carrying out activities in different intervals, including Saturday, if necessary.
- Limit the access in the room where the court hearing is held.
- Limit the case file number for every hearing by organising hearing dates in a shorter time frame (normally the panel of judges has a hearing at about 2 weeks).
- Summoning the involved parties for pre-set hearing time intervals.
- Prioritisation of the case files which can be analysed without the presence of the parties.
- Suspension of the proceedings in a predetermined interval in order to disinfect the premises.
- Implementation of a video conference system, if possible.
- Using protection equipment (masks, gloves) and disinfectants in the courts’ activity.
- Implementation of a work-from-home scheme, where possible.
- Organising the activities dedicated to the general public in larger spaces, where possible.
Courts’ access. In order to promptly implement the necessary measures in the fight against Covid-19, the persons which present Covid-19 symptoms or have been in contact with a person which presents Covid-19 symptoms will not be allowed to access the court. To this purpose a questionnaire shall be filled in before having access within the court premises. In addition to this, thermic scanners or disinfection tunnels should be used at the entrance of the courts with a high workload.
Moreover, in order to facilitate the communications between the courts and the parties, the procedural acts should be communicated electronically. To this purpose courts will request the parties’ contact details (e-mail addresses, phone numbers).
Internships postponement. Courts should avoid organising internships in the following period in order to avoid unnecessary contact and to ensure the prompt implementation of social distancing measures.
Conclusions. We welcome this approach, especially those measures dedicated to digitalising the judicial system. As an example, the Supreme Court of Justice recently implemented an electronic system dedicated to access the documents from the case files. The system will be fully functional starting from 1st September 2020. As we previously stated in our articles related to litigation proceedings during emergency state, we believe that if at least a part of these measures are kept when the fight against Covid-19 ends, it can only generate a positive impact on the litigation proceedings “bringing them closer to the present” and making the procedure more expedite and “user friendly”.
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