As youth courts are opening next week and adult criminal courts are set to open in the near future, some of Legal Aid Alberta’s family practice lawyers wanted to share their experience on what courthouses were like in Edmonton and Calgary after Family Courts reopened on June 1.
Vita Houlihan, Lawyer, Family Provincial Court, Calgary Courts Centre
“In many ways I currently feel even safer working daily at the Calgary Courts Centre in my role as Duty Counsel than I did before the courts began closing and limiting court sittings in the middle of March due to COVID-19.
“I believe that most employees and members of the public are currently taking physical/social distancing rules seriously. The signage is everywhere in the Calgary Court Centre. You cannot miss these signs!
“There is a significant increase in the presence of sheriffs on all floors and at perimeter, the number of people allowed in the building is limited, there is clear signage regarding physical distancing everywhere, from the main floor lobby to hallways to elevators to inside the courtrooms.
“Lawyers and clients are required to maintain a six-foot distance from one another, and sheriffs are around to make sure that these rules are followed. There is hand sanitizer at each entry and exit to the courthouse, and on both ends of each elevator hallway on the floors containing courtrooms. There is always a supply of hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves and masks. More frequent cleanings of escalator railings, stair railings, elevators, the cafeteria door handle and seating areas on high use floors are being done multiple times throughout the day and in the evenings again.
“PPE is available to lawyers and clients even at the podiums in the courtrooms there is PPE set out. Each floor has multiple hand sanitizer stations for use by all.”
Zelma Hardin, Lawyer, Family Provincial Court, Edmonton
“I was very impressed with the set up. The seats, all through the courtroom, were clearly marked for where people could sit and could not sit. Entering the area for the courtrooms was sanitizer. At each counsel table within the courtroom were large bottles of sanitizers. The clerk assigned was wonderful, in terms of making it as comfortable as possible.”
Sara Peacock, Lawyer, Family Provincial Court, Edmonton
“I was anticipating it to be very busy, but it was very quiet, because they are limiting the number of people who can go into the building. There were signs for one-way traffic flow and benches, floors and council tables were all marked with 6-foot spacing. The External Worksite Checklist provided a valuable assessment tool and people were very good about social distancing.”