Public & Media Access

The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta values the open court principle and has put in place policies that enhance access by members of the media and the public. All courtrooms are open to the media and the public except where restricted by law or by order of a judge.

Public And Media Access Guide

This guide covers access to court files, documents and exhibits by members of the public, including the media. It also covers restrictions on access to or publication of information from court files or proceedings.

Electronic and Wireless Devices Policy

This policy sets out guidelines for the use of electronic and wireless devices in the courthouse. It is intended to promote the fairness of the administration of justice.

Scope

  • Definition: “Electronic and wireless devices” includes computers, laptops, tablets, notebooks, cellular phones, smartphones, PDAs, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and any other electronic device.
  • Application: This policy applies to media, members of the Bar and members of the public in Court of Queen’s Bench courthouses throughout the Province of Alberta.
  • Jurors: If you are a juror, the presiding justice will provide you with specific directions which will supersede the directions contained in this policy.
  • Authority of Judge: Notwithstanding any clause in this policy, the use of electronic and wireless devices in courtrooms is subject to the direction or order of the presiding judge, who retains the discretion to allow or prohibit their possession and use.

Policy
Electronic and wireless devices are permitted in the courthouse and in courtrooms, subject to the following restrictions:

  1. All devices must be turned off in courtrooms.
  2. The following are exempted from this restriction:
    1. counsel
    2. members of the media who have signed an undertaking with the Court
  3. Penalties: Anyone who, in the opinion of the presiding judge, court staff or court security personnel, engages in unacceptable use may be:
    1. instructed to turn off their electronic device
    2. instructed to forfeit their electronic device while in the courtroom
    3. asked to leave the courtroom
    4. cited for contempt of court, the penalty being at the discretion of the presiding judge

Definition of Unacceptable Use:
Unacceptable use anywhere in the courthouse, including courtrooms, is any use that breaches this policy, causes a disturbance, interferes with court operations, or is offensive. Examples of unacceptable use, as determined by a judge, court staff or court security personnel, are:

  1. Causing interference with court sound systems or other technology, whether deliberate or inadvertent
  2. Taking photographs or movies of anyone in a courtroom, or anywhere in the courthouse
  3. Making an audio recording of proceedings in any courtroom, jury room, chambers or hearing room unless permitted by the presiding judge or by court policy (media)
  4. In the courtroom or hearing room, any use inconsistent with court business
  5. Any use that may lead to a breach of privacy or courtroom decorum, or interferes with the administration of justice.

Note on Availability of Wireless Networking

The Court takes no responsibility for the availability, performance or security of the wireless network or of any device using the network. Troubleshooting and technical support are the sole responsibility of the owner of the electronic device.

Communicating with the Court

Generally speaking, in accordance with the Alberta Rules of Court and other Court directions, the appropriate means of communicating with the Court to advance an action before the Court is: on the Court record (i.e. verbally in Court proceedings, or in writing through materials filed with the Court, specifically, as provided by the Rules); and on notice (i.e. with a copy) to Counsel for/or the party/parties opposite.   

The Court does not encourage communications from parties or others to the Court, outside of those communications that are required under the Alberta Rules of Court, Practice Notes or as specifically directed by a Justice. The Court will not respond to inappropriate communication in person, by telephone, email or other writing. Inappropriate communication includes communication that infringes the above provisions and that:

  1. is not permitted under the Rules of Court or other Court directions to advance a Court action or process; contains rude or abusive language;
  2. contains evidence that ought to be put before the Court under oath orally in a Court proceeding or a sworn affidavit;
  3. seeks legal advice;
  4. is not on notice or copied to Counsel for/or the party/parties opposite.

Please note:

The Court will not respond to any communications about a Court action from persons who are not Counsel for/or the party/parties to Court proceedings.

When responding  to communications from Counsel for/or the party/parties about a Court action, the Court will copy Counsel for/or the party/parties opposite in the response; and may enclose a copy of the incoming communication.

The Court does not have jurisdiction to handle complaints about lawyers or others who are not employed by the Provincial Government to work for the Court. The Court receives a high volume of communications. Please exercise patience when awaiting a response.

Audio Recording Policy

This policy allows accredited members of the media to make audio recordings of court proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

Who will be allowed to record the proceedings?
Only accredited members of the media who have signed an undertaking will be permitted to bring audio recording devices into the courtrooms. The undertakings will be signed by the media representative requesting access and their manager. Media representatives are required to notify the Court Clerk that they intend to record the court proceeding and/or to prominently display their identification card/badge while recording in a courtroom. They will also be required to produce photo identification when requested by court staff.

Pleas Media_Undertakings_Form e note that signs prohibiting recording in the courthouse will remain posted but will not apply to journalists with those media outlets that have executed the undertaking.

Where does the policy apply?
The policy applies to court proceeding in the Court of Queen's Bench in all judicial centres in Alberta.

What are the restrictions on the use of recordings?

  • Recordings are to be for verification purposes only.
  • Copying, selling or broadcasting the recordings is prohibited.
  • Recording devices must be unobtrusive and not disrupt the proceeding.
  • The Court Clerk and the presiding Justice must be informed in advance that the use of an audio recording device is proposed and/or prominently display their identification card/badge in the courtroom.
  • Recorded communication which does not form part of the official record, such as private conversations between counsel, cannot be used for any purpose.
  • The presiding Justice can still exercise the discretion to prohibit recording of all or part of the proceeding.

Prohibited Use of Audio Recordings

  • Copying, selling or broadcasting court proceedings by any electronic means including radio, television, file-sharing or web transmission.
  • Transcribing audio recording.
  • Posting an audio file on a website.
  • Distributing audio file as an e-mail attachment.
  • Creating a compact disk recording of audio.

Video Recordings
Use of video or still cameras in the courtrooms is strictly prohibited.

Use of Photographs or Video Recordings of Judges

No one may record the likeness of a judge using camera or video equipment, except the following persons:

  • Family members and friends of a judge, or their designates, attending the judge’s swearing‐in ceremony.
  • Family members and friends attending a law student’s Bar Admission ceremony.
  • Judicial and Court Services staff.

Members of accredited media organizations may take a photograph or video recording of a judge at a ceremonial occasion on the following conditions:

  • The reporter obtains permission from the Chief Justice or the Associate Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench prior to the event.
  • The media representative signs the Use of Photograph or Video Recording Undertaking promising to use the photo or video only with a published or broadcast report about the event at which the likeness was obtained, and in no other circumstance without permission of the Court.
  • A procedure is in place at the location where the photo or video is stored to ensure the photo or video is not published or broadcast in any other circumstance.
  • The media representative has obtained permission from the Chief Justice or the Associate Chief Justice to use a photo or video for another purpose.

Use of Photographs or Video Recordings of a Justice - Undertaking Form

Questions About These Policies?

If you have any questions about these policies, please check with security personnel in the courthouse, or contact:

Michelle Somers, Executive Legal Officer
403-297-5003
michelle.somers@albertacourts.ca.