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Jurisdictions Surveyed: Australia | Austria | Azerbaijan | Brazil | Canada | China | England and Wales | Finland | France | Germany | India | Ireland | Israel | Italy | Japan | New Zealand | Norway | Portugal | Puerto Rico | Russia | Singapore | Spain | Turkey | Ukraine | United Arab Emirates

Comparative Summary

This report by the foreign law research staff of the Law Library of Congress surveys the law of 25 foreign jurisdictions on the availability and functioning of virtual civil hearings and/or trials, including the structure of civil court systems and arrangements made to ensure the continuation of hearings and proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the international level, the Court of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has issued a Guidance Note for international arbitration proceedings, with a protocol on virtual hearings in civil disputes.[1] In addition, signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) must comply with article 6 of the ECHR (right to a fair trial)[2] and European Union Member States are subject to EU Regulation No. 1206 of 2001 on Cooperation between the Courts of the Member States in the Taking of Evidence in Civil or Commercial Matters,[3] among other regional agreements. 

The report describes foreign court systems that have adopted a range of options and procedural conditions for virtual hearings and/or trials in noncriminal cases in each jurisdiction surveyed. In Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom, the virtual taking of evidence, hearings, and/or trials may be mandated by the judge or by the application of a party to the proceedings. Additionally, in China, France, New Zealand, and Turkey, the option of virtual taking of evidence, hearings, and/or trials in civil cases generally requires the consent of all parties.

Furthermore, Austria, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, France, India, Israel, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Spain, Singapore, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom have adopted or are in the process of adopting specialized measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to facilitate virtual civil hearings, mediations, and/or trials. For example, in Australia, all hearings (other than in truly exceptional circumstances) are currently proceeding using remote access technology. In Canada, many courts have modified procedural rules or introduced protocols to deal with urgent matters through teleconference or videoconference. In China, the highest court has encouraged courts to fully implement online litigation through designated online litigation platforms. In the United Kingdom, the first hearing under the new legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was held via Zoom on March 27, 2020.

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Prepared by Elizabeth Boomer
Foreign Law Analyst
April 2020


[1] International Court of Arbitration, ICC Guidance Note on Possible Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic (Apr. 9, 2020), https://perma.cc/MMQ4-TLFE. 

[2] European Convention on Human Rights art. 6, Nov. 4, 1950, 213 U.N.T.S. 221, https://perma.cc/5ZZC-55ZX.

[3] Council Regulation 1206/2001, 2001 O.J. (L 174) 1, https://perma.cc/T6Z3-PWH2.

Last Updated: 12/31/2020