New Zealand Law Society - COVID-19 information

COVID-19 information

On this page you will find all the latest information about how New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 is impacting the legal profession. We will continue to update this page as alert levels change, and will provide regular updated advice from reputable sources for the law profession.

Current situation

01/03/2021: Auckland is at Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country Alert Level 2. 

We have reissued the letter lawyers can use if they need to travel to carry out essential work in Auckland during this time. 

The Chief Justice has announced the reinstatement of the Alert Level 2 and 3 protocols for the courts throughout New Zealand. Alert Level 3 protocols have also been restablished in the family courts in Auckland, North Shore, Waitakere and Manukau and special arrangements are being put in place at Manukau District Court (see the Courts section on our COVID page for more information).

In Auckland 

Criminal
For the Auckland High Court and Auckland and Manukau District Courts no new jury trials will start before Monday 8 March 2021. 

Jury trials that were due to start on Monday 1 March in the Auckland courts will be adjourned or called over, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Court staff will contact the parties directly regarding their specific case. All jury trials underway will be suspended with the exception of one case in the Auckland High Court where the evidence has concluded, and the trial is in its final stages. Court staff will contact the parties in this trial directly.

Civil
All civil matters currently underway or due to start in the Auckland Courts will be reviewed, with as much work done by remote means as possible. Court staff will contact the parties directly.

The rest of New Zealand
The Chief Justice has re-confirmed that all trials scheduled to be heard in the rest of the country will continue as scheduled. In limited cases if the Court cannot accommodate jury trials in accordance with the Alert Level 2 restrictions, these trials will be adjourned or stood down. This decision will be made at the local level, and participants will be contacted directly.

Guidance for lawyers

Family Court
Principal Family Court Judge Jacquelyn Moran has released details of a new system for adoption applications in the Family Court for families in international surrogacy arrangements caught out by COVID red tape delays.

Please contact us if there is specific guidance that you require. Call +64 4 472 7837 or email Covid19@lawsociety.org.nz.

If there is a change to alert levels we will re-publish relevant guidance on this page.

Courts

In Auckland 

Criminal
For the Auckland High Court and Auckland and Manukau District Courts no new jury trials will start before Monday 8 March 2021. 

Jury trials that were due to start on Monday 1 March in the Auckland courts will be adjourned or called over, to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Court staff will contact the parties directly regarding their specific case. 

All jury trials underway will be suspended with the exception of one case in the Auckland High Court where the evidence has concluded, and the trial is in its final stages. Court staff will contact the parties in this trial directly.

Civil
All civil matters currently underway or due to start in the Auckland Courts will be reviewed, with as much work done by remote means as possible. Court staff will contact the parties directly.

Manukau District Court
The District Court Alert Level 3 protocol allows for local solutions to be arranged to address local issues. Given the heightened concerns that apply to Manukau District Court, an agreed “local solutions” approach was settled for the Manukau District Court for today’s cases as follows:


1. All priority proceedings will proceed to be heard for people in custody who must all appear before a Judge and if possible, they are to appear by AVL.
2. All defendants who are on bail and due to appear on Monday will be excused from appearing in person unless it is essential that they appear in person before a Judge. Registry staff will work with Security at the front door to ascertain whether it is essential for defendants to appear in person. This may include defendants who are unable to contact their lawyers and have no means of appearing using technology.
3. All counsel for defendants may appear by VMR.
4. All crown counsel may appear by VMR.
5. Police prosecutors will appear in person.
6. Duty solicitors will appear in person.
7. Registry staff will triage all cases set down for hearing today and will contact counsel with
staggered appearance times.
8. Family Court hearings will be conducted by VMR. The same will apply to civil proceedings.

Auckland, North Shore and Waitakere Family Courts
All judicial/directions/pre-hearing conferences have been converted to telephone conferences. Counsel and parties will receive log-in information from the registry.

Auckland settlement conferences will proceed provided the Alert Level 3 Family Court protocols can be adhered to. In particular this requires social distancing to be maintained and is dependent on the number of participants likely to attend. Waitakere is able to accommodate settlement conferences this week. Northshore settlement conferences will only proceed if a larger courtroom is available and counsel will be advised if they cannot proceed.

Long cause fixtures will not proceed in Auckland this week. There will be a callover on Friday for those scheduled for the week commencing 8 March 2021.

Callovers will be arranged for all short cause hearings before the hearing date to ensure suitable hearing arrangements are in place and explore the availability of AVL/VMR where necessary. In person hearings will continue as scheduled provided Alert Level 3 Family Court protocols can be complied with and in some cases it may be more appropriate to hear witnesses by AVL/VMR. Where appropriate, submissions only hearings may be conducted by telephone/AVL/VMR

Mental Health hearings will revert to AVL/VMR.

Registry counters are closed, a drop box is available for filing but on notice applications may be filed electronically during Alert Level 3. Any urgent queries or information should be communicated using the usual registry email addresses but with URGENT marked in the subject line with the FAM reference.

You are reminded that affidavits/declarations can be sworn/declared electronically where they are impracticable to be sworn/affirmed in the usual way. Registry staff are available to take affidavits/declarations if required. There should be no need to file unsworn affidavits.

Service by bailiffs is not available during Alert Level 3. Electronic service is available in terms of rules 107A and 127A of the Family Court Rules 2002. Please ensure you take adequate instructions and file supporting evidence is filed to prove that “at the time of service, the recipient regularly used that electronic address” – rules 107A(2) and 127A(b).

South Auckland Family Courts

Judge Goodwin’s information sharing group for South Auckland lawyers has been restablished this week.  Practitioners in the other Auckland courts will receive separate communications via the Family Law Section from Judge Pidwell, acting Family Court Liaison judge in Auckland.

Monday's OT list has been converted into remote appearance via VMR and notices went out on Sunday advising the allocated time slots.  If we are in Level 3 next week, OT and CoCA lists will continue be dealt with in this manner.

Short cause and half day hearings scheduled for Manukau (today), Papakura (Tuesday) and Pukekohe (Wednesday) will be subject of a call-over this afternoon. Any hearings which proceed will take place in Manukau.

The settlement conference this week has been adjourned.

Telephone conferences will be held for the long cause hearings in which Judge Mahon and Judge Goodwin are involved this week.

Judges are very aware that there will be a heightened sense of anxiety among lawyers and parties about in person appearances in the Manukau Court given the proximity of the latest outbreak. It is important that anyone who has anxiety about an in-person appearance informs the court so alternatives can be arranged.

The rest of New Zealand
The Chief Justice has re-confirmed that all trials scheduled to be heard in the rest of the country will continue as scheduled. 

In limited cases if the Court cannot accommodate jury trials in accordance with the Alert Level 2 restrictions, these trials will be adjourned or stood down. This decision will be made at the local level, and participants will be contacted directly. 

Health and safety
The Ministry of Justice’s health and safety arrangements for Alert Level 2 and 3 can be found on the Ministry of Justice’s website

Physical distancing arrangements are in place throughout all courthouses and screens will be in place for jury trials. Supplies of masks, gloves and hand sanitiser are available for all participants at court. Thermal imaging will be operational.

Law Society services

Our Auckland office is closed for the duration of Alert Level 3 and our staff are working from home. The Auckland Law Library can be accessed by lawyers using a swipe card although our staff will be working from home. The Library can still do research and document delivery, please email auckland@nzlibrary.org.nz or call 09 304 1020.

Outside of Auckland the majority of our staff will be working from home. Some branches will be open with staff on reception, please call ahead to check before you visit.

Our Law Libraries will be staffed between 8:30am and 4:30pm. Please contact us with any research or document delivery requests at auckland@nzlslibrary.org.nz, wellington@nzlslibrary.org.nz or canterbury@nzlslibrary.org.nz or submit a request via the website.

If you do visit one of our offices or libraries please wear a mask and maintain your distance. Please also scan the COVID-19 QR codes using the NZ COVID Tracer App.

Support for our members’ wellbeing

The Legal Community Counselling Service provides counselling with via phone or videolink as well as face to face.

The Law Society’s Practising Well initiative provides access to other support and resources for lawyers.

Ministry of Health guidelines on managing your mental health are on the MOH website.

For support with grief, anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can also call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For COVID-19 health advice and information, contact the Ministry of Health’s Healthline team (for free) on 0800 358 5453 or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please email Covid-19@lawsociety.org.nz

This page will be updated as we have more advice for members of the profession.

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