THE ADVOCATE 661
VOL. 78 PART 5 SEPTEMBER 2020
LESSONS LEARNED FROM COVID-19:
AN INTERVIEW WITH
CHIEF JUSTICE HINKSON
By Connor Bildfell*
Major disruptive events force us to find ways of adapting to
new and unforeseen circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic
is no exception. Seemingly overnight, the coronavirus
outbreak turned our lives upside down. We traded
suit pants for sweatpants, handshakes for hand sanitizer, and social gatherings
for social distancing. Our justice system, too, was forced to find ways
of adapting. Hearings took place remotely, certain legal formalities were
relaxed, and e-filing became the norm.
As courts resume more operations, it is worth reflecting on the changes
our justice system has made over the past several months and on the lessons
we can learn from this experience. To that end, I sat down with Chief
Justice Hinkson to hear his perspective on the B.C. Supreme Court’s experience
over the past several months and the lessons the court—and our justice
system more broadly—can learn from that experience. The following
interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of the main steps taken by the court to preserve access to justice
during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We responded quite quickly with some innovative ways of giving people
access to justice. Some worked better than others. We started with urgent
hearings by telephone, with various constraints such as limiting each hearing
to a single issue. But spending an entire day on the phone is not something
people are really enthusiastic about. It’s very tedious. We also had
problems with our phone equipment. For example, our phone system
allows only one person to speak at a time, so if someone wants to filibuster,
they can—and some do, particularly self-represented litigants. Also, our
phone system initially limited calls to eight people, which was not enough
* The author would like to thank Chief Justice Hinkson for kindly agreeing to be interviewed for this article.