While Coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on industry and commerce globally, ISTAC has made decisive steps to use widely available video and telephone technology to mitigate unnecessary delays to arbitration proceedings. Providing a simple roadmap to best practice for conducting online hearings, the 10 articles of the rules and procedures resolve issues surrounding the legal and practical implications of virtual hearings. These include the initial decision to hold an online hearing in a virtual court, its purpose and scope, preparations, who may attend, the use of witnesses and experts, and so on. Online hearing rules and procedures.
The main rules and procedures for virtual hearings are as follows:
- Live court online hearings using video or telephone conferencing technology may be instigated at the request of a party or at the discretion of the arbitrator or arbitral tribunal. Different rules to those set out by ISTAC may be established, provided that the right to a legal hearing is respected.
- Following consultation with all parties, the arbitrator or arbitral tribunal will establish the technical infrastructure of the hearing. This will include the choice of software, confidentiality measures, usernames, and passwords. Technical support from ISTAC Secretariat will be available should it be required.
- Prior to the virtual hearing, notification of all attendees must be made by all parties. Unauthorized third-parties may not attend the hearing.
- During the hearing only one participant may speak at a time. All other participants must mute their microphones to ensure the highest possible audio and visual quality.
- Documents may be transmitted electronically subject to permission.
- Due diligence will ensure the right to a legal hearing and that all interested parties have the opportunity to attend. The hearing may be terminated if the arbitrator or arbitral tribunal deem that that right has been violated.
- Any witnesses or experts attending the online hearing must be present in front of a camera and clearly visible. Documents can be made available to the witness or expert, and if appropriate, shared electronically.
- If notified in advance, the use of an interpreter may be permitted at the hearing. The party in need must provide the translator.
- The arbitrator or arbitral tribunal may record the hearing. Parties will be informed, and recordings shared upon completion of the hearing. The arbitrator or the arbitral tribunal may have recordings transcribed at the expense of the parties. Recording without approval from the arbitrator or arbitral tribunal is not permitted.
ISTAC’s leadership is a positive move for arbitration in a time of global pandemic.
The use of online legal hearings has grown internationally in recent years, and as many organizations continue the move towards digital solutions, we welcome ISTAC’s leadership and clear guidance in addressing the many considerations for conducting arbitral procedures remotely. Working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic is of paramount importance, ISTAC’s initiative allows us to continue our arbitration work while reducing risk significantly and we are happy to advise our clients to accept online hearings for their arbitration proceedings.