High Court halts hearings until August

Steven Trask and Karen Sweeney
(Australian Associated Press)


Australia’s highest courts are delaying all cases for months in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The High Court’s full bench won’t hear cases in Canberra until August and the Federal Court is vacating all matters listed through to the end of June.

“The first possible time the full court will sit again in Canberra will be in August,” a spokesman told AAP on Tuesday.

The court was continuing to receive advice and would reassess in June the court’s pre-arranged July recess, he added.

Where necessary, hearings will be conducted using videolink.

The court will continue to hand down judgments and the move is not expected to impact the timeline of the high-profile bid by pedophile Cardinal George Pell to overthrow his child sexual abuse convictions.

The Federal Court also announced all cases listed to the end of June, and requiring in-person attendance, would be vacated.

“The court is examining, as a matter of urgency, its capability to facilitate listings by remote access technology, without requiring in person attendance,” a spokesman said.

“Court users should closely monitor the daily court lists to check which listings are proposed to proceed.”

The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia’s Lionel Bowen Building in Sydney was briefly shut down after a lawyer tested positive for the virus.

The lawyer was inside the building on Goulburn Street on Tuesday March 10 and Thursday March 12.

NSW Health on Tuesday evening cleared the building to re-open on Wednesday.

“As a precaution, people who were present in the building on 10 or 12 March should monitor for symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath that may develop in the 14 days following last possible exposure,” a court spokeswoman said.

After the Supreme and County courts suspended new jury trials last week, Victoria’s Coroners Court on Tuesday also hit pause on all non-essential hearings this week, but will hand down an inquest judgment in chambers on Wednesday.

A corruption hearing into a suburban Melbourne council will be also adjourned as a precautionary health measure.

The public hearings have been probing Casey Council for allegedly serious corrupt conduct related to planning decisions.


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