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The Assembly of Southern Lawyers is calling on the Judiciary to review its current system of virtual hearings at District (Magistrate’s) Courts.

In a letter sent to Chief Justice Ivor Archie yesterday, the organisation’s President Michael Rooplal praised the Judiciary’s introduction and increased reliance of the technology during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic but noted some concerns over how it was being managed for District Courts.

“We have received several complaints of attorneys and litigants having to wait for several hours in some instances for their matters to be called by the relevant District Court Judge,” Rooplal said, as he noted that the situation has had a negative effect on efficiency and productivity.

Rooplal noted that as some court users do not have technological access, they are forced to come to attorneys’ offices and spend hours waiting on their cases to be called.

Rooplal suggested that consideration be given to adopting the case management system used in civil courts whereby parties are given set times for the their hearings before a judicial officer.

He said that his organisation was willing to hold discussions with other stakeholders such as the Law Association over the issue.

Guardian Media understands Rooplal did not receive a response up to late yesterday.

Contacted yesterday, lawyers practicing in courts in other areas of Trinidad confirmed that they had been experiencing similar issues. Most polled suggested that the civil court model suggested by Rooplal should be considered.

Since the start of the pandemic in March, the Judiciary has gradually moved to virtual hearings in most cases including judge-alone trials with physical appearances at court buildings only occurring in rare and exceptional circumstances.