Remote & Virtual Hearings
CRCICA’s experiences with remote hearings and video conferencing
In its response to the pandemic, CRCICA has encouraged its users (arbitrators, parties and counsels alike) to privilege electronic means for both hearings and submissions. Accordingly, CRCICA has invested in both Zoom and Microsoft Teams to ensure high-quality videoconferencing capabilities.
CRCICA has also allowed physical hearings to take place at its premises, with a requirement that parties send no more than two representatives to maintain a safe distance between attendees and the possibility of holding remote hearings. Since the end of April 2020, several hearings have been conducted by videoconference, thereby minimising disruption to the arbitral proceedings. In general, parties, their counsels and arbitral tribunals have been cooperative with a growing trend towards using technology to accommodate the restrictions associated with the covid-19 crisis.
To keep users appraised of new developments, the Centre issued regular updates to its users urging them to privilege electronic means of communication and remote hearings.
CRCICA’s data on its hearings for the years 2020, 2021 & 2022
From 1 January to 31 December 2020, 78 hearings took place using CRCICA’s hearing facilities:
- 11 hearings were held entirely via videoconference;
- 2 hearings were held entirely via teleconference;
- 10 hearings were held with partial in-person and remote attendance; and
- 55 hearings were held with in-person attendance of a limited number of people, in compliance with the centre’s social distancing guidelines.
From 1 January to 31 December 2021, 131 hearings took place using CRCICA’s hearing facilities:
- 38 hearings were held entirely via videoconference;
- 17 hearings were held with partial in-person and remote attendance;
- 76 hearings were held with in-person attendance of a limited number of people, in compliance with the Centre’s social distancing guidelines.
From 1 January to 31 December 2022, 129 hearings took place using CRCICA’s hearing facilities:
- 15 hearings were held entirely via videoconference;
- 3 hearings were held with partial in-person and remote attendance;
- 111 hearings were held with in-person attendance of a limited number of people, in compliance with the Centre’s social distancing guidelines.
CRCICA’s hearing facility and steps for holding a hearing via video conference
CRCICA has a high-tech hearing facility equipped with a premier video conferencing system (Polycom HDX) and interactive meeting room systems are installed to ensure high impact visual experiences and realistic meeting environments. The video conferencing system can accommodate a remote or virtual hearing connected to the cloud and conducted using online platforms, which can be connected up to the maximum number of persons allowed to connect remotely via such platform.
CRCICA offers through its case manager to the tribunal the opportunity of holding hearings remotely through one of its preferred platforms (Microsoft Teams or Zoom). Following that, CRCICA receives a request from the arbitral tribunal to do so. Through its case manager, the centre then sends the link relating to the selected platform to the parties, their counsels, the tribunal and witnesses and experts, if any (hereinafter the ‘attendees of the hearing’) and request a pre-conference test to troubleshoot any technical issues (at least two to three days prior to the oral hearing). In all manners, the Centre organises virtual breakout rooms for all the attendees of the hearing. The Centre asks the tribunal whether the hearing should be recorded (audio or video) to the tribunal, and it in turn asks the parties accordingly. The centre’s IT administrator assists all the attendees of the hearing before, during and after the hearing if they require any further technical assistance.
The number of attendees of the hearing is controlled via their emails. If any of the attendees of the hearing sends the invitation link to anyone else to attend, the protocol at the centre is that, after seeking the arbitral tribunal’s clarification regarding such non-listed attendee, the IT administrator can reject such request from a non-attendee to attend the hearing.
The case manager sends an email in advance to the attendees of the hearing to conduct a pre-hearing test call (under the supervision of the IT administrator) right before the beginning of every remote hearing to address once again any potential technical issues. Moreover, the centre’s IT administrator is logged on to every hearing to troubleshoot any technical issues during the hearing. During hearings that are conducted with partial physical presence at the centre’s premises and some attendees attending remotely, the IT administrator is available to ensure that all attendees to the hearing have access to the same visuals and are able to hear and respond efficiently. There is a backup internet connection for use with the agreed platform, in case a problem arises with the original internet connection. If the problem still persists, the IT administrator will use another online platform. This is the protocol in case any fault occurs during the videoconference so the hearing can continue with minimal disruption. Following the hearing, a link to the recording of the hearing is sent by the case manager to the attendees of the hearing by email with a complex password, which is valid for a period of one week.