Women Judges Respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

The China Association of Women Judges (CAWJ) actively participated in the fight against COVID-19

According to Women of China, members of the China Association of Women Judges (CAWJ) were asked to play their role and take responsibility by carrying out online court work in order to make sure criminal cases of disrupting epidemic prevention and control efforts could be heard in a timely manner.

The Judiciary of the Democratic Republic of Congo took health precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic

I would like to say a few words to give you some news from the Democratic Republic of Congo, precisely in Kinshasa. Indeed, during this time when the whole world is troubled by this pandemic, we have not given up hope that all will be well. Like everywhere else, we follow the recommendations of our health department to prevent and fight against this virus.

Our judicial system works, but not as before. We provide minimum service.
In my jurisdiction, we first provided washbasins and hand sanitizers at all the main entrances of the Court and in front of the offices.

I go to Court every day in my capacity as head of the jurisdiction while taking precautions for my protection. I receive people only if it is necessary otherwise, I answer the concerns of lawyers or parties only over the phone.

Hearings are normally held but are not public as before; that is to say, only the parties to the trial and their counsel are authorized to access the courtroom case by case.

Generally speaking, we are witnessing a lot of cases being postponed by lawyers. All hearings at the central prison are postponed to later dates. In the event of illness of a prisoner and if he/she is transferred to another hospital outside the prison, I organize in this case a hearing.

Judges go to Court only if they are scheduled. The main goal is that everyone stays at home unless it is necessary.

Until now in the DRC, lockdown is partial. Administrative staff work on a rotating basis. Apart from the clerks, the others only come if they are scheduled and their number does not exceed five.

We thus work in accordance with the measures taken by the President. These measures can always change depending on the evolution of this pandemic.

This blog post was prepared by Judge Ayitoma Ilonga, IAWJ member. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

In Kenya, the Hon. Hannah Okwengu delivered 57 judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via video link

In Kenya, Justice Hannah Okwengu delivered 57 judgments and rulings of the Court of Appeal via video link. All decisions were then available on the eKLR website within 48 hours.

“For the criminal cases, I basically read the analysis and conclusion after a brief introduction for the benefit of the appellants who were also connected. For civil cases, I did not have to read, but a copy of the judgment was forwarded to the parties via email and also published on the Kenya Law website. We have learnt that technology is a sleeping giant in the dispensation of justice.”

The Mexico Chapter of the IAWJ conducted fieldwork on how state judiciaries are facing a rise in gender-based violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic

In Mexico, as in the rest of the world, we are very concerned and occupied with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Under the leadership of Supreme Court Justice Norma Lucía Piña Hernández, the Mexican Chapter of the IAWJ did some fieldwork on how state judiciaries are facing gender-based violence during lockdown.

It is a very interesting experience which has been shared on social networks and in the media and which can be found here.

This blog post was prepared by IAWJ member, Judge Martha Muro. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

COVID-19 measures taken in the judiciary of the State of Quintana Roo, Mexico

The decision of a total suspension of work from March 23, 2020, until April 19, 2020, was made by the foremost authority to which five magistrates are attached. The general agreement establishes that the period can be shortened or extended as necessary, taking into account the phases declared by the state and federal governments.

There will be no attention to the public, on one hand. There will be no deadlines. In a preliminary agreement, it was left to the free decision of each magistracy and the unit in charge to take the necessary measures.

In the Fourth Unitary Chamber of the Administrative Justice Court, measures were adopted since Friday 13 such as the provision of supplies (gel, soap, gloves and face masks) for staff. Support was provided for all staff to attend to their health and that of their relatives since many parents were choosing not to take their children to school.

It should be noted that we use as a frame of reference, the Pact to Judge with a gender perspective, an instrument signed by all judicial bodies.

In addition, considering that the staff working in my unit presented more than 50% of influenza cases, the right to health was prioritized individually, as well as collectively; which generated a challenge of facing additional workloads. Generally speaking, the staff assumed a collaborative attitude.

In my unit, the decision was made by consensus to work from home, starting Monday, March 23, optimizing the agreement of the Plenary since all public activities were suspended.

With this measure, we will be able to provide the service of imparting justice in better conditions upon return of activities; especially that in the legal model of the administrative justice of Quintana Roo, there are parameters similar to the Amparo Trial, the latter aspect that forced the suspension notifications on new lawsuits that entered on Friday.

I do not omit to point out that the State of Quintana Roo and particularly the City of Cancun, being touristic poles, are doubly vulnerable, since the flow of people remained unrestricted until recently and, on the other hand, economic activity depends on tourism.

This blog post was prepared by Magistrate Monica Valencia Diaz, a member of the Mexico Chapter of the IAWJ. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

The Courts and Tribunals of the Republic of Paraguay carried out activities during the COVID-19 emergency

The Supreme Court of Paraguay, in accordance with the provisions of the President, has made a Prevention Protocol of the C.S.J, for the purposes of mitigation of COVID-19, adopting the following measures:

Agreed 1366 dated March 12, 2020, by which it ordered the suspension of the activities of the Judiciary in all the Judicial Circumscriptions of the Republic from March 12 to March 26, 2020, inclusive; subsequently extended, until April 12, 2020, with the following judicial procedures being enabled: a) Constitutional Guarantees (Habeas data, Habeas Corpus, Amparo, Action of Unconstitutionality) (New Actions and Exceptions of Unconstitutionality derived from lawsuits for other constitutional guarantees (Amparo, Habeas Corpus, Habeas Data).
b) New Actions and Exceptions of Unconstitutionality derived from the Criminal Jurisdiction.
c) Constitutional consultations derived from the cases foreseen in the previous paragraphs) … b) Authorization of the Court for Children and Adolescents to process the following trials: (Travel, Precautionary measures of emergency; Restitution; mistreatment) … c) Authorization of criminal Guarantee Courts to process Hearings for the Imposition of Measures; Measurement Review Hearings; Search Warrants; Kidnappings; Jurisdictional Advancement of Evidence d) Enabling Sentencing Courts for the continuation of oral trials already begun until their completion and oral trials already scheduled with expiration date until April … e) Enabling a criminal enforcement court … e) Enabling of the Justice of the Peace solely and exclusively for the travel permits of children and adolescents and cases of family violence … f) Enabling the Criminal Court of Appeal; Court of Appeal for Children and Adolescents; An Adolescent Criminal Court of Appeal.

Agreed No. 1370 dated March 25, 2020, by which it was established that the resumption of trials processed before the Courts and Tribunals of the Civil and Commercial Jurisdiction that have the electronic judicial file or electronic judicial procedure, and approved the Electronic remote management Protocol.

By plenary decision, the exoneration of attendance of officials and magistrates over 65 years of age and of civil servants and magistrates in a state of pregnancy was ordered.

This blog post was prepared by IAWJ Board Member, Judge Jovita Alicia Rojas de Bortoletto. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

The Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) donated masks to public hospitals

The Philippine Women Judges Association donated N95 masks (which are now in scarcity and ultra-expensive) to two public hospitals in dire need of such. Our medical/health workers/front liners are in more in danger. We need to protect them so they can protect us. For each region in the Philippines, women judges are spearheading fund drives to help the front liners.

This blog post was prepared by Justice Arcega, IAWJ Board Member. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

How is Spain’s judiciary confronting the COVID-19 pandemic?

The state of alarm was declared by the government on March 14 and since then, social distancing measures were taken. The people’s right to movement was limited and the procedural deadlines were suspended, among other economic and labor measures.

In the judiciary, it is preferable to work remotely (teleworking), and in person, only essential services are maintained (cases with prisoners, gender violence, fundamental rights, collective social conflicts, etc.). The Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court suspended their face-to-face activity.

There is a problem of supplying personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, etc.) among people who work in court in person, which we hope will be solved soon. The same problem is also suffered by other groups due to lack of supply.

This blog post was prepared by Magistrate Gloria Poyatos Matas, a Member of the IAWJ Board of Directors. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

Taiwan Courts Taking Coronavirus Precautions

Taiwan has recorded 283 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 28, 2020. Among those cases, 241 are classified as imported and the other 42 are believed to be local infections. While the government has been able to manage the epidemic, the public largely maintains its composure. In response to the coronavirus, the court system has drawn up management measures and contingency plans to keep normal operation.

The courthouses have enforced entry restrictions. Multiple entrances have been reduced to only a few major entrances. Temperature check is required for everyone and alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers are provided at the entrance. Anyone with a fever over 37.5°C/ 99.5°F taken on the forehead or in-ear will be denied entry. It is strongly advised to wear a surgical mask in the courthouse. Most visitors wear a mask although it is not mandatory. Most staff have their masks on in the courtroom and meeting as well. Some courts have conducted hearings by the use of videoconferencing with inmates to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

On the courthouse administration and management, the staff is required to report immediately if any colleague who is diagnosed with COVID-19, has developed symptoms suspected of infection, has exposed to the diagnosed, or has travel history to the countries classified as Level 3. Every unit shall have a plan of the backup workforce in place in case any colleague contracts coronavirus or is required to quarantine. Moreover, a contingency plan to split the entire workforce into two teams needs to be devised, which includes the possibility to alternate-working from home. Activation of such a plan will be subject to the Chief Judge of each court as the situation evolves.

In addition, the Constitutional Court requires spectators and reporters to register and submit a health declaration for a hearing. Spectators may be denied entry at the discretion and as deemed necessary by the court. The spectator seating is divided into distant seats so that all spectators and reporters are arranged one meter apart. The number of spectators and reporters are limited up to 48 in total. Only 12 spectators and 12 reporters can be admitted into the courtroom while the others can observe the proceedings through live streaming from another separate auditorium.

The lessons learned during the 2003 SARS have given Taiwan the ability to deal with current challenges. Today both public and private sectors are cooperating with government recommendations, which has proved crucial in the nation’s containment efforts. Taiwan’s ability to contain the COVID-19 outbreak is a tribute to our unity and resilience. We believe the international community can work together in the fight against COVID-19.

This blog post was prepared by IAWJ member, Justice Hui-Yu Lin. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.

In Tunisia, judicial measures were taken to fight COVID-19

In Tunisia, we began a total lockdown a few weeks ago. The Supreme Judicial Council and the Ministry of Justice have gradually taken decisions concerning justice. Only very urgent civil cases and criminal cases concerning detainees are maintained. Judicial staff and judges are limited to the minimum necessary.

It is the beginning of this ordeal. What is very worrying is the lack of means for protection and the carelessness of certain people. Today, the army has started to take to the streets to force people to stay at home.

This blog post was prepared by IAWJ Board Member, Saida Chebili. The views presented in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the IAWJ.